The Bottom Line: A witty, white-knuckled medical thriller about academic ethics and betrayal. Fans of BBC crime dramas like Vienna Blood and Endeavour will love the Waynflete Trilogy.
The second installment in N.E. Miller’s Waynflete Trilogy begins as Oxford researcher Giles Butterfield, having reluctantly achieved celebrity status after surviving the harrowing events detailed in Miller’s award-winning The Achilles Gene, returns to campus. Among Giles’ numerous worries is that a fellow researcher’s death was not in fact an accident, as the Italian authorities had concluded.
But first, he has to face his fears about his reception at Magdalen College Oxford. For the sake of medical science, Giles had, among other things, broken into the U.S. National Cancer institute and falsified evidence to gain approval for a cyber-attack. However, Giles is greeted with a hero’s welcome that, in his not-so humble estimation, has not been seen in the college for 500 years.
While appreciative, the researcher remains tormented by doubt. His vigilance is warranted. Research fellow Fiona Cameron appears to catch assistant Aram in a lie about a confidential document. Next, he’s blindsided when the director of an organization called MECCAR – Rashid Yamani, whom Giles planned to support for the Nobel Prize – publishes a shocking claim before inviting him to a private meeting in Paris.
The book’s title refers to one side of a short length of DNA and its potential role as the “switch” for a ground breaking genetic discovery. But the primary suspense in Deidamia’s Surprise belongs to the fascinating world of high-stakes academic rivalry, theft and credit-taking. In a scene where Fiona romanticises Rome’s ancient Capitol en route to a meeting with the Italian police, Giles retorts that behind the scenes it had been, “Nothing but greed, corruption, backstabbing, dishonesty, betrayal, and skulduggery.” While that description is true enough, it’s also the perfect encapsulation of the deliciously dangerous world Miller has created.
Miller injects ample romantic suspense into the narrative thanks to the progression of Fiona and Giles’ relationship. While the duo make an excellent investigative team, the relationship’s amorous potential is thoroughly teased throughout. From a playful encounter in the office to his proclaiming that one of her love interests is “either gay or a eunuch,” the book crackles with sexual tension.
Deidamia’s Surprise also possesses significantly more humor than its predecessor. Thankfully, the jokes land, and with them, it’s easier than ever to envision the trilogy as a BBC series. Readers are advised to start with Book 1.