Out of breath, Dr Sarah Wallace, senior lecturer in forensic entomology, burst into Ridley lecture room exactly thirteen minutes late and stood before her students taking deep gasps with her right palm to her chest. Her shoulder-length brown hair, clipped at the back, swayed on the collar of a beige sleeveless cardigan worn over a white blouse.
She noted the usual set of final year students. “I got held up,” she said, swinging her crumpled corduroy bag from her shoulder onto the floor, then dropping a folder of papers on the table in front of a large white-board. “Thank you for waiting.
“It will be worth it,” she added, to a murmur of laughter. “Watch you don’t catch flies in that mouth, Simon. You never know what’s buzzing around in this lecture room.”
Simon closed his mouth promptly and blushed. He usually sat at the front and always looked surprised when she entered the room. Even though he was fifteen years her junior she recognised he was a good-looking lad. Athletic, with dark brown eyes the colour of mahogany. Not the best student, but competent when he tried – she suspected he spent most of his time playing guitar. She smiled and turned to the bag.
“Anybody care to tell me what these are?” She pulled out a transparent perspex box and held it up. Small brown flies clung to the sides and lid.
She walked around the table and handed the box to Simon. “Pass them round.”
“No takers?” She waited while the box was moved hand-to-hand around the room. “Come on, some of you must have seen these at A level.
“What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is Drosophila,” she said returning to the board, and writing the word across its length with a sweeping hand movement. “More formally known as Drosophila melanogaster, it also goes by the humble name of ‘fruit fly’. But its importance to science is immeasurable. In 1910 Thomas Hunt Morgan first spotted genetic mutants – flies with large white eyes – among his collection at Columbia University, and since then fruit fly research has fuelled a revolution of biological understanding. The most important aspect of which was the discovery that the fundamental genetic mechanisms of growth and development are comparable in all living things.”
She let the words sink in and smiled to herself as Simon made notes. “I repeat. All living things. At a genetic level we are as similar to Drosophila as we are to Gryphea, Arenicola, Mesonychoteuthis the colossal squid, certainly all the other animals, and we have much in common with plants.”
She sat on the front of the desk. “Now we’re not going to go into the depths of the fly’s genome, I’ll leave that to more eminent lecturers, but the reason Drosophila is so good for genetics, and not forgetting forensics, is because it breeds fast. We can study several generations in a week.” She paused and checked the under-grads were paying attention.
“Now if you’ve read your Byrd and Castner, you’ll know that a wide variety of insect species are attracted to human remains and play an active role in the decay process. Yet Diptera and Coleoptera are the most important. Fly larvae are the first insects to colonise decomposing remains. They can thrive in the fluid as the corpse liquefies and are mostly responsible for the dramatic consumption of the tissues. It’s only much later, when the corpse begins to desiccate, that other insect groups, notably beetles, move in for their turn at the feast. So for the rest of the term we are going to be eating and sleeping Drosophila – not literally Simon, I’m sure you understand.
A man emerges from the sodden undergrowth, lost, lonely and starving he is mown down by a speeding car on the edge of a remote forest.
Rumours of ghostly apparitions haunt a rural Northumberland community.
A renowned forensic research establishment is troubled by impossible results and unprecedented interference from an influential drug company.
Hendrix 'Aitch' Harrison is a tech-phobic journalist who must link these events together.
Normally side-lined to investigate UFOs and big-beast myths, but thrust into world of cynical corporate motivations, Hendrix is aided by a determined and ambitious entomologist. Together they delve into a grisly world of clinical trials and a viral treatment beyond imagining.
In a chase of escalating dangers, Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged victims donated to scientific research.
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Genre – Crime, Thriller, Horror
Rating – R-16
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