Are you heading off for some well-needed rest? Then do considering packing a copy of Cat Zero, my latest lab lit novel – in which a feminist virologist joins forces with a sexist mathematician to solve a cat plague that might be more sinister than it first appears.
Set in a quirky research institute in leafy North London, the novel sees Artemis “Artie” Marshall, a new lab head, deploying charm, wit and lateral thinking to establish herself in an old-fashioned academic community notorious for its misogynistic outlook. A light-hearted scientific whodunnit with a serious streak, Cat Zero is part-thriller and part oblique love story, packed to the hilt with hardcore lab life. It’s one of the hottest summers on record, and the novel kicks off with a strange new outbreak rearing up on the Isle of Sheppey, just off the coast of Kent in the atmospheric Thames Estuary. Artie and her team, with the help of two otherworldly and antisocial theoretical epidemiologists, find themselves on a race against time to get to the bottom of an epidemic which certainly isn’t what it first appears to be.
But don’t just take my word for it. Matthew Reisz, the book editor of the Times Higher, recently wrote that this “highly entertaining” book is “both informative about the science and intriguing about the rivalries, backbiting and sexual tensions of laboratory life”, and that the mystery kept him turning pages to find out how it ended. (Other plaudits, including a few from best-selling authors, can be found in an earlier blog post.)
Once you’ve returned from your holiday (hopefully sun-kissed and not nettle-stung and/or midge-devoured), we’d love to see you at Fiction Lab at the Royal Institution on the 8th of October, where we’ll be discussing Cat Zero. For those who don’t know, Fiction Lab is the world’s first book group dedicated to the lab lit genre; we meet on the second Monday of each month at 7 PM, followed by a pub session at the nearby King’s Head (where the cheesy chips overfloweth and the ales are pretty decent). When the author attends, there’s a 30 minute free-for-all discussion beforehand so you don’t feel inhibited by any fragile authorial egos, after which they make an appearance to chat about the ins and outs of the novel, answer questions and of course, sign copies. It’s free, it’s a friendly bunch of regulars, and all are welcome – we’d love to see you there!