Excerpt from The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Betrayal

A Novel

by Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2011, 336 pages

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Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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'You soon will be, if he has his way. And he'll be out of them.' Lena's clever, slanting green eyes scan his face anxiously. 'You've never agreed?'

'I've said I'll talk to him tomorrow.'

'Listen to me. I know about these things. Tomorrow you'll call in sick. Promise me.'

'I can't do that.'

'Do you think Russov would do anything for you if you were in his position?'

'No. Probably not.'

'Well, then.'

'But, Lena, we're medics; we have to cooperate. It's perfectly legitimate for Russov to call on a second opinion.'

'Is that what he calls it? He's going to be the first opinion, then?'

'Well - '

'Just as I thought. It'll be you in the firing line, and no one else.' She lowers her voice again. 'You should keep out of it. Remember Court of Honour.'

Of course he had seen the film. He and Anna had watched it in silence, and left the cinema without comment. She had held his arm very tightly on the walk home. The film was fiction, but its targets were real. Kliueva, Roskin and Vasili Parin. Brilliant, innovative research scientists. Kliueva and Roskin pioneered biological drug treatments to shrink tumours. They'd seemed invulnerable. State funds poured into their research institute. Kliueva was awarded a Stalin Prize. The charges brought against them were that they'd betrayed Soviet scientific research secrets, which belonged to the State. Either they'd been tricked by the Americans into disclosure, or there was a more sinister explanation. But everyone knew it was inconceivable that they'd made these contacts with the Americans without permission. No scientist travelled to the USA without a full and thoroughly understood set of instructions. Whispers said that everything was done on clear State orders. Policy had changed overnight, as it did so often, and the scientists paid the price. Parin, who'd actually handed over the research material, was sentenced to twenty-five years as a spy for the Americans. Somehow, by the skin of their teeth, Roskin and Kliueva survived their Court of Honour, their severe reprimand and the barrage of claims that they too were spies, hoodwinked by the Americans. They'd been unbelievably lucky; Parin not so. The warning was there. Don't think, however eminent and crowned with prizes you may be, that you can't be destroyed. Don't think that the scientific or medical community can expect any special favours because of its particular expertise. The same stringent standards apply to everyone. Scientists can be spies; doctors can be anti-patriotic saboteurs. Anybody can go out of favour in the blink of an eye. The State is tire less in exercising the utmost vigilance over scientists and doctors who present themselves as 'dogooders', thinking only of the needs of humanity and of their patients.

Lena is watching him. She'll know exactly what he's thinking. Everyone saw Court of Honour. She glances around her again, and says very quietly, 'I know it's not quite the same thing, but it'll turn out the same way, believe me. They believed that they were acting in good faith and so they would be all right. All they were thinking about was the cure. That was their mistake.'

He nods. Not for the first time, he's amazed by Lena's trust in him. 'I understand what you're saying, Lena,' he answers.

'Do you? I hope so. You've got too much faith in people, but to me all this smells wrong. Did he tell you what's wrong with the boy?'

'Not yet. What do you know, Lena?'

'Not a lot. No one's been allowed near him except Russov. He's had X-rays done already, did he tell you that?'

A wave of anger courses through Andrei. How can that be possible? To have X-rays done, but not to tell him! Was Andrei supposed to order more X-rays and so give the patient a double dose of radiation?

The Betrayal © 2010 by Helen Dunmore; reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

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