“HD66: search for a cure or a killer” is a startup mystery novel – a contemporary story that takes place in a technology startup. Blending entrepreneurship with murder, the plot weaves together the discovery of a drug for an incurable disease with an unexpected invention that does the opposite. Filled with evil venture capitalists, egotistical c-level executives, eccentric scientists, and earnest students, “HD66” lets the reader experience life inside the roller coaster world of a startup.
Brie Prince is a rising young executive at the startup, Quixotic, founded to bring a drug to market to cure Huntington’s Disease. Brie is desperate for the cure to become available to save her father. But, in today’s world, bringing a new drug to market is not simple or quick. Brie needs the inventor, her mentor, of the drug to help her. Unfortunately, the scientist-inventor is found dead in the river. Brie feels as though this was no accident, and takes it upon herself to find the killer, and the clue her mentor left behind to help save her father.
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- Discuss the characteristics of the scientist provided in snapshots throughout the narrative. We know that he wears Hawaiian shirts, not a suit, and that in his exuberance calls Brie “beautiful.” In what ways are these and other details the reader receives about him unexpected?
- How do different educational and experiential backgrounds help Quixotic function as a cohesive company?
- Does the motif of bees relate to this theme?
- Discuss the role of investors in the startup. Why might Quixotic turn to seek funding from sources based outside of the United States? What are some of the liabilities Quixotic faces in doing so?
- Describe the energy of discovery among the characters in the book. How do the movements to discover the killer connect with the role of scientific discovery that drives Quixotic?
- What do you take away about entrepreneurship, drug discovery and startup culture?
- What is the relationship between the startup and the outside world?
- How is Brie a good ambassador to this world?
- Is there conflict between the approaches to information in that the detective wants resolution through facts while the company wants the solution without divulging sensitive or confidential information? Who bridges these worlds?
- Discuss the difficulties of pursuing a cure for an orphan disease versus developing a cure for a disease more prevalent in the population.
- How does watching her father lose functionality affect Brie and her significant life choices?
- What is the life of a postdoc like? What about a CEO?
- What is achieved by the narrative structure that includes flashes of activity punctuated by time, but not necessarily in sequence? Why did the author choose to pace the book with the jumps forward and backward in time?
- Who were the strongest characters, and what is telling about how the author portrays them?
- Confessions to Brie
- Revelations through first-person narration
- Discuss the role of primary sources – lab notebooks, Shala’s letters to her sister, quotes from Dickinson and Guthrie and other references that are woven throughout the story. Do they support the “suspension of disbelief” in the narrative?
- What are some of the “ways of knowing” portrayed in the book?
- Discuss the role of place and setting in the story.
- How does the weather function as part of setting the scene throughout the novel?
- Discuss the voice of Brie.
- How is it unique?
- What are the distinguishing characteristics?
- How does this relate to the concept of self-discovery in the context of scientific discovery – and in solving the crime?
- Describe the role of women in the story.
- How does the portrayal of characters from diverse geographical and educational backgrounds turn stereotypes into ploys of distraction from the dramatic action? In what ways does the author use the expected in unexpected ways?
- Broadly, how does Brie’s conception of family illness create a strong subplot, or do you view it as the central drama?
- Do you think this theme resonates with readers in a powerful biomedical philosophy, or do you connect more to the unraveling of the murder mystery?