Susan Hurley on Eight Lives, a game-changing medical thriller

by |March 27, 2019

There’s perhaps no other author in the world better positioned to write a medical thriller than Susan Hurley.

With over thirty years of experience in medical research and the pharmaceutical industry, Susan has had a front row seat to almost everything that goes on in the high-stakes, big-ego world of medicine.

Turns out, it all ended up being the perfect material for a cracking thriller.

Described as “a smart, sophisticated thriller that explores power, class and prejudice,” Susan Hurley’s debut novel Eight Lives is like nothing you’ve ever read before. Told from multiple perspectives, it tells the story of a former Vietnamese refugee, David Tran, who is on the brink of transforming immunology with his groundbreaking research. Before he can test his potentially life-changing drug, however, David ends up dead in highly suspicious circumstances.

Eight Lives - Susan Hurley

For Susan, Eight Lives is the result of a lifetime of knowledge and first-hand experience of such a dynamic field, as well as a burning desire to write.

“I’ve always been a keen reader and always had a lurking ambition to write a novel,” she says, but the busy nature of life in medical research meant that she never had the time. It was only after she had reached a stage of life where she had more time to herself that Susan began once more to entertain the notion of writing a novel – and we’re so glad she did.

Our reviewer Ben Hunter, Booktopia’s Fiction Category Manager, had this to say of the novel:

“Fast-moving, smart and powerfully told through a diverse cast of characters, Eight Lives is a sophisticated thriller examining the money, manipulation, power and prejudice that lies at the heart of medicine’s cutting edge. I was hooked and you will be too.”

Ben and I sat down this week with Susan this week to chat all about her book, the tragic real life drug trial that inspired it, and everything in between.

Have a listen below!

Eight Livesby Susan Hurley

Eight Lives

by Susan Hurley

Former refugee David Tran becomes the Golden Boy of Australian medical research and invents a drug that could transform immunology. Eight volunteers are recruited for the first human trial, a crucial step on the path to global fame for David and windfall gains for his investors. But when David dies in baffling circumstances, motives are put under the microscope.

With its origins in a real-life drug trial that ended in tragedy, Eight Lives is told from the perspectives of David's friends, family and business associates, who all played a role in his downfall.
A smart, sophisticated thriller that explores power, class and prejudice, Eight Lives will keep you engrossed until the last page.

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About the Contributor

Olivia Fricot is Booktopia's newest Senior Content Producer and Editor of the Booktopian Blog. After finishing a soul-crushing law degree, Olivia decided that life was much better with one's nose in a book and quickly defected to the world of Austen and Woolf. You can usually find her reading (obviously), baking, writing questionable tweets, and completing a Master's degree in English literature. Just don't ask about her thesis. Olivia is on Twitter and Instagram @livfricot - follow at your own risk.

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  • Colleen van der Horst

    April 15, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I’ve just finished your book and I thought it was truly original and that you are talented new writer to emerge on the Australian scene. You say in the podcast that you hope people will learn something as well as feel from reading your book – I can promise you I did both! I am including the brief review of your novel I wrote for the Surf Coast Reader which includes my responses ‘Eight Lives’. Good luck with your next novel – I am looking forward to reading it.
    ‘Eight Lives’- Review by Colleen van der Horst, Surf Coast Reader
    If you want to experience something new and unique in fiction go to Susan Hurley’s recently published, Eight Lives. It’s been designated a new genre: ‘Medical Thriller.’ For those of you just wanting a thriller which keeps you guessing and turning that next page for revelation, this novel will satisfy. But this multi-layered novel more to offer. Though the deftly structured plot kept me turning the pages, it was the gradual, seamlessly interwoven revelations of character that most absorbed me. It’s wonderful when you totally forget the author’s hand behind the pen, and become engrossed in the individual characters – their psyche and motivations.
    A distinguishing feature of Hurley’s writing, is her clear sighted, dispassionate appraisal of human behaviours. It allows for a complex ambivalence in our consideration of characters and their choices, and importantly, prevents easy judgement. This talent reminded me of the writing of another Australian writer, Chris Tsiolkas, who explains it best himself:
    “It may be that I am constitutionally unable to understand the desire for moral absolutes. I love crime novels, for example, but most of them end up disappointing me because of the too easy division of the world into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’
    “Eight Lives” confronts difficult and disturbing questions of humanity morality and the choices we make, but does not allow easy absolutes or judgements. This ‘eyes-wide-open’ appraisal of reality presents us with an authentic insight into the world of medical and pharmaceutical research where the lives of the students, researchers, professors, investors, doctors, nurses and admin staffers converge in the endless quest for success. Like Tsiolkas’ characters, Hurley’s are human and flawed, but in most cases she has a kinder, lighter touch than Tsiolkas who can be quite brutal in his revelations. She uses deft irony to effect in exposing hypocrisy or miscreance, but employs it with light bemusement when dealing with an individual’s vanities or self-delusions. Hurley can also apply a comedic detachment, in dealing with difficult, potentially distressing subjects such as animal experimentation.
    No doubt readers will have different perspectives and judgements of the five major players in Eight Lives and the various social issues the novel raises. Susan Hurley told one interviewer that the imperfect Miles was her favourite character; but it is the imperfect Dung Tran, David – the Golden Boy, and his painful tryst with adversity that weighed indelible in my mind long after I closed the last page.

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