Eight Lives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2019

Member Reviews

An intriguing mystery of the life and death of a doctor who has invented a new drug that will make millions and millions for his investors and change the lives of the eight people who are in the drug trial.  The story is most interestingly told by his friends, family and coworkers, giving us many different perspectives of this man and his invention.  The story flows easily from one character to the next, something that most writers are unable to accomplish.  Susan Hurley has obviously invested time and effort into ensuring the overall story will keep you guessing until she suddenly shines a light on the "bad" guy.
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~I received an e-ARC from NetGalley and willingly reviewed it~

A news release advertisement thrusts David Tran, a genius refugee-turned-researcher into the limelight in the run-up to his first human trial of a groundbreaking drug that would save countless lives. His sudden, unexpected death and the mysterious circumstances raise questions about the cause of his demise. Told from the perspectives of those who had a part to play in David’s death, Eight Lives explores the realms of privilege, power, and prejudice in the setting of the 2000s in Melbourne, Australia.

This book had me captivated from the very beginning, despite my initial skepticism after rereading the synopsis—I desperately didn’t want it to turn out like my some of my other recent reads, books that didn’t turn out to be what I expected. But there was nothing to worry about here, for Eight Lives is a sensitively told story that draws readers into David Tran’s life, and how those around him view him. I also didn’t mind the casual reference to my favourite Homeland character Peter Quinn (where is his justice?!), or the continual tennis references. The split perspective narration was another thing that I was initially unconvinced of, but telling this story from the perspectives of Miles, Rosa, Foxy, Ly, and Abigail worked out really well.

Each character got their own introductory chapter, which, I have to say, was an extremely effective method of introduction and initial establishment of character and role; Susan Hurley manages to make them unique, interesting, memorable, and still set up their roles in the story perfectly. It felt like the book started from five different directions—a regular pentagon centred around one point—but as it went on those threads spun inward, entwining, showing themselves to be nothing but strands of the same story. David is the star of the tragic tale, and despite not being given a voice himself he comes to life through the others’ memories of him.

Susan Hurley doesn’t shy away from discussing uncomfortable or slightly controversial topics in this book, which is shown through the backstory of her characters. Rosa Giannini, a Sicilian whose parents died in a car crash when she was six, leaving her in the care of her aunt Frankie who made a brave bargain that landed them in Australia. Miles Southcott, very much the typical privileged white boy, a junior tennis star that quit to fall back on his Plan B, a med school degree. His father’s and the affluent Cunninghams’ fixer, Harry “Foxy” Renard, quite the member of the old white mans’ club. Abigail Banks, David’s forever girl who is a passionate advocate for the rights of those who don’t have their own platform. Ly, or Natalie, David’s younger sister. And of course David himself, a brilliant mind who, in the end, can’t seem to escape the demons of his family’s past. Eight Lives makes a point about how privilege and wealth can be used as tools to gain power, the struggles of immigrants and how marginalised groups are always under-supported by the law, animal welfare and rights, and many other more subtle cultural mishaps that exist in Western culture unnoticed by many.

Eight Lives tells a story that is nothing if not powerful, partially based on real events of a phase one human trial gone wrong. The characters are well written and stem from vastly different backgrounds, and the plot covers so many currently relevant issues that I struggle to recall and name them all here. Put quite briefly, this is a book I recommend that everyone read. You may have little interest in the main advertised topic of this book, immunology, but neither do I, and this scientific thriller drew me in. Fact is, this book is so much more than just a story, parts of it are a reality for too many people in the world. Eight Lives is not a book you want to pass on.
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its good and its set in melbourne: a big plus. but im slowly learning that crime just isnt my genre. i know super suspense gets people in but....not me sorry. i am excited about susan hurley's fiction career though !
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On the whole, I liked this book as it covers a subject area I find fascinating: the development of new drugs. However, I found this book somewhat confusing, with the many different stories being told and I feel as if some of the characters were too one dimensional or cliched. 
The last few chapters were the most frustrating with plot twist after plot twist, so that I sped through the final pages just to get it finished. The final revelation about David and Mai was just too much.
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One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
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I REALLY liked this one.  Thrillers are one of my favorite genres and it was awesome to see a fresh take in the form of a scientific thriller.  The science was dumbed down in a way that made sense to me and was accessible.  I understood the basics without getting too bogged down or overwhelmed by details.

Duong comes from Vietnam as a "boat person" when he's little.  His mom actually tied them to the mast of a ship so they can make it, and he has permanent scars as a result.  David invented a super drug that I envisioned as the night king of the white walkers if the white walkers are an auto immune illness.  The super drug can take down the cell that controls all the other cells, and then the other cells are knocked out too and the illness is defeated.  Ly is David's sister. Foxy is a rich people's fixer who is tied up with David's investor and his screw up son.  Abigail is David's vegan, social worker girlfriend.  Rosa is his lab assistant who's just been thrown off her old job after a big mistake.  Miles is David's school friend who now practices medicine.  Each one feels responsible for his death.  Each one holds some of David's secrets.  Each one has personal reasons to keep those secrets to him or her self.  

More importantly the structure of this novel is perfect.  Each of the characters has information the other characters don't.  We're figuring things out along with them and the pacing of the information we get is spot on.  If you can picture a spiral on a page, the novel felt like that, with the reader starting on the outside and slowly circling closer and closer to the truth.  With each chapter the landscape shifts slightly and the reader is forced to re evaluate expectations.  Exactly what a mystery/thriller should be.  I even stayed up late to finish, which hasn't happened to me in a long time.  The author also managed to give each character a distinct voice without being overbearing about it.  

Great vacation or rain day or snow day read.  Would definitely recommend.
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Thank you Netgalley for providing this book for a honest review. :) 

I was drawn to the book from reading the summary but was very disappointed in the execution for the following reason: 

1) The book introduces Dung/Davie/David ,but the focus shifts to multiple perspectives. I found it to be very distracting. 

2) There are references to medical jargon and abbreviations that I did not understand. I had to keep reading the brief explanation of the medical terminology when provided. 

3) The use of foreign language was unique, but it personally added no value to my reading experience. 

4) The structure of the plot was not smooth. The rotation of different people's perspective and shift from past to present distracted me. 

5) The first half of book progressed slowly. Suddenly, the mystery of the plot is revealed towards second half of the book. 

6) I didn't find Charlie's final outcome to be relevant to the plot. I personally would have been okay with Charlie being in Hong Kong. 

What are the pros?

I found the truth behind Dung's death to be intriguing despite my review.
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Former scientist Susan Hurley applies her expertise to this pacy story about the dealings surrounding the bringing of a new drug to market. David Tran is a Vietnamese refugee who has become the golden boy of immunological research. He invents a new drug called EIGHT, which venture capitalists get behind and start pushing towards commercialisation. Then a tragedy occurs, which throws a massive spanner into the works.

The story is recounted through the points-of-view of David's circle: his sister, schoolfriend, girlfriend, research assistant and the fixer summoned to deal with the controversy. Hurley's plot is clever, with plenty of twists including a big one in the final act that I did not see coming.
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David Tran is the "Golden Boy" research Doctor who ends up dead. Told through rotating points of view of his friends and family, we discover why everyone blames himself for his death. And eventually we uncover the truth behind what happened.
I'm unsure how to rate and review this book. What I really enjoyed were the medical descriptions and research processes which were all given in layman's terms and quite fascinating. The book is also well written, well paced and easy to read. Plus I always enjoy an Australian setting.
There was just something missing, or not quite fleshed out for me enough with the mystery. It kind of fell a little flat and disappointing and I felt that a number of questions remained unanswered. Nevertheless, it was a good debut novel that I would recommend to fans of medical mysteries.
3.5 stars
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest reviw.
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I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Susan Hurley’s debut novel Eight Lives from Netgalley and Affirm Press. Eight Lives draws its inspiration from  a real life medical trial that had a disastrous outcome. It’s not your average read!

From the outset we know that the central character, the  ‘Golden Boy’ Dr David/Dung Tran is dead. Tantalising, bit-by-bit the multiple narrators tell their story/s and explain their connection to David and their narratives overlap. It felt like a spider’s web at times.

To be honest, it was a bit hard to keep track of all these backstories and points-of-view, especially early on.  I didn’t ‘like’ any of these narrators, although I found  Rosa, Natalie and Miles grew on me by the end. However what kept me interested was the quality of Hurley’s writing and her ability to explain complex medical research and trail protocols without being too ‘clunky’.

There are multiple twists in the plot, maybe a couple are just too ‘cute’ and add to the complexity of the whodunnit. A lesser writer would have lost me, but Hurley manages to keep all these competing voices and complex twists together.

 While it seems like I didn’t enjoy Eight Lives, I keep thinking about it which to me is the measure of a good read! Ideally I would give it 3.5.
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A very engrossing read.
To tell you the truth I constantly tried to figure out why the book called 'eight lives' as it is told from 5 different perspectives, not eight.
This multi-voice narration is very interesting. Reader gets five-sided view of the events at the centre of the plot.
A young brilliant man dies. Why? Five questions asked and even more answers are given. Reader gets to make up their own mind.
The story of medical discovery and failure is technical enough to make it believable and simple enough to make average reader to understand what is going on. 
Eight Lives that were almost lost, several that were and so many more that were saved or changed as the result of it all, 'Eight Lives' is a very good suspense novel, worthy a very thoughtful read
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This was the first book I had read by Susan Hurley but it won’t be the last.  What a thriller!  Reading the novel from the different perspectives of the characters gave the story depth and raised questions in the mind of the reader making it difficult to solve the mystery.
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“When eating the fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”

What scientist has not dreamed of discovering the drug that will cure cancer or any of the killer diseases out there? It would make them not only a lifesaving hero, but also a billionaire. But I am betting that the average person has no idea of the “behind the scenes” that is necessary before a new medication hits the market. According to one of the interesting facts the author discloses in this intelligent thriller is that only 15% of all drugs that go through clinical trial actually make it onto the market. Which is quite an eye-opener, considering that a clinical trial costs tens of thousands of dollars if not more. Not to mention the political wheelings and dealings that play out between drug companies. So even if you discovered that grandma’s innocuous herb in her vegie patch is the new cure to diabetes, don’t hold your breath that fame and fortune await any time soon.

Former asylum seeker turned protégé doctor David Tran has indeed managed to crack the code that could turn on our own immune system to fight disease, making him the golden boy of Australian medicine and highly sought after by drug companies wanting to cash in on his imminent success. If the drug makes it through all stages of clinical trials, it could be worth billions. But on the eve of the first human trial, David is dead. What happened? Who is to blame?

EIGHT LIVES is one of the most intriguing, intelligent and well-researched medical thrillers I have ever read, and the author’s intimate knowledge of medical research and the pharmaceutical industry became very obvious as soon as the story unfolded. As a health professional, I had no problems with the medical terminology included in the book – in fact, I appreciated the accurate portrayal of medical procedures and processes that often get lost in works of fiction for the sake of entertainment or simply because the author is not familiar with them. With its Australian setting, the book also reflected our own medical system here, which made it easier to navigate for me than US based medical thrillers.

Hurley tells her tale through the POVs of multiple characters, and it was one of those rare books where I found each and every character equally interesting. I also really appreciated the inclusion of characters from different cultural backgrounds, like David (Dung) Tran and his family, who were asylum seekers from Vietnam, and Rosa, whose family were Italian. It added an extra depth to the story and reflected some of the current topics related to immigration in Australia. As the story slowly unfolds through different eyes, and each character’s unique voice, we soon learn that David’s unfortunate death is surrounded by mystery and speculation. Why did this brilliant young man have to die?

Hurley includes many fascinating facts about immunology, pharmaceuticals, drug trials, animal and human testing of drugs and the politics behind having a new medication approved for market, which all made for fascinating reading. I was drawn in very quickly and could not tear myself away! Whilst some characters are not very likeable, there is always some subtle self-deprecating humour and good Aussie tongue-in-cheek at play here, which gave the story a special flair I really enjoyed. 

IF you are wondering about the title – it will make perfect sense in the end. An end which is as tragic as it is shocking, and took me by surprise. I would have to be a true mastermind to tie together all the strings on my own, but it was very satisfying to finally have all the answers. What really happened to David Tran? You will have to read it to find out. Make sure to also read the author’s note, which explains the inspiration for this story, which made it even more poignant for me. Also notable are some of the ethical issues raised in this novel, which would make for an interesting discussion in a reading group.

Multi-layered, intelligent, gripping and satisfying are all terms that come to mind when trying to describe this book. I highly recommend it to readers who are looking for a smart medical thriller from a writer who has insider knowledge of the industry and is not afraid to showcase it. I really hope to read more from this author in future!
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Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Unfortunately, I did not like this book. Not to say it's a bad book, it's just not to my liking. Written by an Australian and set in Australia, I found it was too full of Aussie slang and terminology. Maybe the author is targeting an international audience who are seemingly in love with our language, but as an Aussie, I found this a little too grating. Not many people in Australia actually speak this way.

Written from multiple perspectives, I felt the characters waffled on way too much, making the story just drag on. I managed to get 50% into the book before anything actually happened. Character and plot development are important, but this was just a little too much.

I couldn't finish this book. 2 stars only from me.
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A fascinating read, Eight Lives is a compelling, unique mystery/drama peopled with a cast of wonderfully complex characters. It's a perfectly-plotted page-turner - what happened to David/Dung? Whose fault was it? Why all the secrecy?
And yet, there's so much more to Eight Lives than that, the narrative interwoven with deeper questions about medical ethics and the power of Big Pharma.
It's extremely well researched but the plot is never slowed by the wealth of scientific detail.
A genuinely wonderful debut novel - I look forward to seeing what Susan Hurley does next.
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The story just kept getting better, albeit more twisty, as it went on. This was one of those unexpectedly good reads and one of the best from this genre this year. I loved the science aspect, but I'm not a STEM-y kind of girl so I don't know how well it went for others. A perfect summer thriller!
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This is a book set in Melbourne and centres on the development of a new miracle drug, a monoclonal antibody that could cure cancer and all sorts of incurable diseases.  It is told through the people who surround David Tran, the 'golden boy'. A Vietnamese refugee who has beaten the odds and come through medical school as a star.
However, David carries a lot of secrets and baggage. His girlfriend is a vegan and despises his research methods and protocols.  His mother and sister need his constant protection and support due to a past liaison.  He ends up with the worst possible business partner.  This leads to the 'incident' and point at which everyone's lives start to fall apart.
There is a lot of technical medical information in this book, but it is the reality of this research world and revealing as to how the big pharmaceutical companies operate.
A very interesting and though provoking insight into new medication development.
Thank you Affirm Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.
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The story of David Tran, a research doctor, told from the viewpoints of his friends. This mystery story is well written and kept me engaged till the end. It provides a good story, technical medical details, suspense and a variety of points of view. I would recommend this book. I received a copy of Eight Lives through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I received a digital ARC from Netgalley and the publisher but chose to listen to the audio version and it was fabulous.
Dr David Tran is dead, he’s young, smart and has made a name in medical research but what happened to him and why?
There are a few significant people that played a part and each chapter is a different person’s perspective of what David meant to them and how their lives were interwoven. As their stories are told we slowly learn how things become a perfect storm.
In the audio version each person is narrated by someone different and the voices were very distinctive and I felt, appropriate to how I imagined them.
The was some medical jargon but this was easily understood, though it sometimes came across as a ‘podcast’ because of the way the characters told their stories. I really felt all this was very effective as an audio and it really enhanced my enjoyment. The ending was certainly not something I had taken into consideration.
Highly enjoyable and a different take on the theme of a medical thriller.
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I am going to preface this review with a disclaimer: I worked in this particular field at the time this book was set which will colour my review. 

This story is slow to start but picks up towards the end of the book, and gives a really good insight into the commercialisation aspects of immunology and medicine in general. There are multiple character viewpoints, some of which are more engaging than others. The science was reasonably clear and well explained, and I appreciated how different characters viewed it and tried to explain it differently. There were some predicaments I found rather too far-fetched for my liking (Rosa's failure to notice her hybridoma had stopped working being the major one), but I was mostly able to set aside those concerns and enjoy the story as it was. The author sets up the different stories threads and weaves them altogether to give a very satisfactory ending.
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