Intuition, By Allegra Goodman Atlantic £12.99

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The Independent Culture

The riches and immortality awaiting whoever discovers the cure for cancer are taken up by Allegra Goodman in this novel, which sold out across the Atlantic.

Cliff is a brilliant all-American post-doc student working in a cancer-research lab run by two ambitious scientists. He's about to be sacked from the lab because of his disappointing results, however, when, suddenly, a seemingly miraculous breakthrough in his research occurs. His one-time girlfriend and lab partner, Robin, gets suspicious and sets out to investigate.

Goodman's research is spotless, and she doesn't let it hold up the narrative, which relies on us finding out whether Cliff has been faking it. There is something flat, though, about her writing, which ranges over the personal lives and ambitions of the various characters without ever really allowing us to invest enough in any of them.

Her own sympathies veer between the characters, probably in an attempt to make them rounded, but it means that the reader is never sure quite who to root for, and as a result, quite who to care about.