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“A Fierce Radiance,” a novel by Lauren Belfer, is a story of events surrounding the development of penicillin and subsequent leap in the evolution of medicine. Although the antibiotic had been discovered in Britain as early as 1928, it was not until World War II began that there was a rush to invent some technique for mass production.
This story begins in December, 1941, In New York City. The main character, Claire Shipley, a photojournalist working for Life Magazine, has arrived in the city to record some of the earliest trials of penicillin at the Rockefeller Institute, an assignment that would eventually involve espionage, blackmail and murder. Little does Claire suspect how much this story will change her own life.
With fortunes to be made in the business of saving lives, a person, a company is willing to commit murder to gain control of this new medication. Penicillin was restricted to military use; at first private citizens could only receive the antibiotic if they had an unusual condition that could not be readily found within the military for testing of the drug.
The author takes the reader through the events of WW II by injecting the latest happenings at the warfront. She includes actual people living in the time period, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Henry and Clare Booth Luce, John D. Rockefeller and George Merck.
Mystery, murder, a love story, a dysfunctional family and a woman ahead of her time give the reader a sweeping medical thriller focused on who should profit from this scientific innovation.