cover image Her Hidden Genius

Her Hidden Genius

Marie Benedict. Sourcebooks Landmark, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-72822-939-3

Following The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Benedict shines a light in this underwhelming story on Rosalind Franklin, the British chemist and X-ray crystallographer who dedicated her short life to uncovering the DNA molecule’s structure. Rosalind begins researching X-rays in 1947 at a Paris lab where men and women are treated equally. Entranced by mentor Jacques Mering, she’s about to return his romantic overtures when he mentions he’s married. His subsequent affair with a new researcher is the catalyst for Rosalind to give notice and find a position in London. There she runs into staid British attitudes about women in the workplace and contempt for her work, which is now centered on DNA. The author details Rosalind’s many run-ins with colleague Maurice Wilkins, who is in cahoots with molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick at a rival lab. In fact, the now-famed duo win the race to construct a DNA molecule model by essentially stealing years of Rosalind’s painstaking work. The author spends a lot of time hammering on the well-known misogyny Rosalind faced, and tries to explicate her subject’s discoveries; on the latter, she achieves varying degrees of success. Much has been written about the real Franklin, and unlike Benedict’s other fictional chronicles of historical women, this doesn’t add a whole lot to the story. (Jan.)