Academics meet 007 in a thriller about genetically modified foods.
Arthur Hemmings is both a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens and an undercover agent for the Secret Service. In his second capacity, he’s called upon by Ag & Fish to discover who broke into the lab of an Oxford professor and stole his research. Professor Scott and Tanya Petrovskaya, his assistant from the Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden, have been working on apomixis, a process whereby plants reproduce without male pollen, thereby enabling them to retain forever whatever desirable qualities they have without losing them in a generational gene shuffle. The consequences for the world food and drug supply are so enormous that governments and private companies are fighting to patent the process. No wonder Professor Scott is drowned, Tanya goes missing and another lab assistant dies of anaphylactic shock. It’s up to the clever, urbane Hemmings to find the missing material. Though a greedy multinational company lawyer, the CIA and the British government all want the research for their own purposes, Hemmings, like Professor Scott, would like to see it benefit all humankind. Hemmings visits Oxford and interviews the professor’s staff and friends, but it’s at the Swiss patent office that opposing forces collide in a battle for the world-altering research.
The results, based in part on Pringle’s nonfiction work Food, Inc. (2003), are original, fast-paced and altogether delightful.