February 8th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Sensible environment policies can counter extremists

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bushfires: Never let a good crisis go to waste

CANBERRA OBSERVED Submarine build gives us a sinking feeling

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION Bill Mark II a shade better but still faulty

OBITUARY Wilson Gavin: Requiescat in Pace

WORLD AFFAIRS Central banks move to dictate climate policies

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump impeachment will end with a whimper

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia considers a Magnitsky-type law

SOCIETY The optimist vindicated? Er, no!

LITERATURE AND SOCIETY The poetry of Distributism

ASIAN POLITICS Changing of the guard: Taiwan votes

HUMOUR Legal X-clamation points and that

MUSIC Is there a way to virtue via the sublime?

CINEMA The Authentic Mr Rogers: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

BOOK REVIEW How little, low-tech militias stay under the radar of huge, high-tech armies

BOOK REVIEW First novel dips into depths of medical murder-suspense genre



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

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First novel dips into depths of medical murder-suspense genre

News Weekly, February 8, 2020


by Susan Hurley

Affirm Press, South Melbourne

Paperback: 384 pages

Price: AUD$32.99

Reviewed by Michael E. Daniel

David (Dung) Tran, a brilliant young medical research doctor who is allegedly on the cusp of producing a revolutionary drug dies suddenly in mysterious circumstances.

In her debut novel, author Susan Hurley gradually reveals the factors that lead to David’s death, while at the same time effectively maintaining readers’ suspense.

Hurley is a medical researcher who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years. Her previous writings include research articles in The Lancet and pieces in Kill Your Darlings, The Australian, and The Big Issue.

Hurley draws on her knowledge of medical research and practice as the basis of this novel. A central element of the novel, namely a drug proven to be toxic in the critical phase of experimentation, is loosely based on an authentic case – the TeGenero Trial – in the mid-2000s. The novel takes its title from the anonymous eight volunteers who were due to be the guinea pigs for the human testing of the drug.

As the narrative unfolds, readers gradually learn about David’s background. The narrative is told from the perspective of five persons associated with David: Ly (Natalie), his putative half-sister; Miles Southcott, his best friend and medical colleague; Rosa, a researcher; Abigail, his girlfriend; and, Foxy.

Fleeing Vietnam, David and Ma, his putative mother, arrive in Australia. David’s stepfather, and Ma’s father Kevin “Hands” Tran essentially abandons his family, visiting monthly to get money from Ma.

David has meanwhile befriended at school Miles Southcott, from a privileged family. To protect her son and better his academic prospects, Ma brokers a deal with Miles’ mother, whereby David would live with the Southcotts and in return assist Miles with his homework and study. “Hands” continues to extort money from Ma, now being the money that she is given by the Southcotts.

David and Miles successfully gain places in a medicine course and graduate as doctors. However, when David makes an appearance on television with his dubious and unscrupulous business partner, Charlie Cunning-ham, whom he had met through the Southcotts, “Hands” sees this as an opportunity to extort even more money. The novel begins with Ly’s observation that the critical events in the novel began with this TV interview.

David also enters into a relationship with Abigail. An animal-rights advocate, Abigail has a serious argument with David about the ethics of experimenting on chimpanzees as part of the clinical trial process for drugs.

Hurley is adept at maintaining readers’ interest and suspense, particularly through alternating the narrative perspectives. However, there is the sense – particularly towards the end of the novel – that there is one too many plot twists. That having been said, Eight Lives is an engaging novel, one which the reviewer enjoyed reading.

It raises interesting and thought-provoking issues involving the ethics of medical research, particularly how it should be conducted, as well as the relationship between investors, drug companies, and researchers. However, readers are warned that some of the concepts raised and content, particularly in the latter stages of the novel, are confronting.

Michael E. Daniel is a Melbourne-based writer.

Purchase this book at the bookshop:


All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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