Friday, January 13, 2012

Love, Murder, Intrigue, and Penicillin

A Fierce Radiance, by Lauren Belfer

This story opens in New York City just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The main character is Claire Shipley, a photographer for Life magazine and a single mother.  She is doing a story about a young man who is dying from an infection and the attempt to save his life with penicillin.
It is one of the first times penicillin is being tried on a person and the process is fraught with perils.  The doctors do not know how much penicillin should be used or how it should be administered.  In fact, they are not even sure how the medication should be produced.
Claire does not realize that this project will become a major turning point of her life.  She meets and eventually falls in love with James Stanton, a young doctor working on penicillin research.  When a promising young researcher is murdered, Claire is drawn into the investigations.  When penicillin becomes a major focus of the war effort, Claire is drawn into the politics and intrigues of war.
At the same time, Claire is building a new relationship with her estranged father who is a self-made millionaire.  He is eager to establish a relationship with her and his grandson.  He also recognizes the potential value of the penicillin research and that brings him into surprising conflict with his daughter.
This is a satisfyingly complex story full for unexpected twists, danger, and resolution.  On top of all that, it is more or less historically accurate with the history presented in a way that is well integrated into the story and generally unobtrusive.
A Fierce Radiance, published in March, 2011, is Belfer’s first book since City of Light, published in August, 2003.  The new story shows that Belfer’s command of her craft is growing.  The story line is seamless and she more skillfully encompasses the history within the context of the story in this second novel.
This is a good read and I highly recommend it.

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