Aster’s mother died of cancer. She and her sister Poppy travel to New Zealand to live with their aunt. But Aunt Iona is not living in the respectable semi that she had sent photos of to the girls’ social worker. She is living on an ecovillage where she is secretly conducting research into a vaccination that will prevent cancer. There is a predisposition to it in their family; their mother and grandmother both died of it. She gives the vaccine to the girls, telling them it is a tetanus jab.
Iona had been working with Jonathan Nygard. He had wanted the blood from Iona’s trial patients to use in an actual cure for cancer. Coincidentally he had used it on Sam’s grandfather. The girls had met Sam on the plane.
Iona takes the whole of the colony out on a boat trip. Poppy leaves her hoodie and phone on the shore. Sam finds them when he goes looking for the girls. He takes the sim card out of the phone and loads it on to his computer. He finds out the coordinates of where Ion has moved the colony to.
Iona had put the patients now including her to nieces into hibernation. Iona, Aster and a couple of the others come out of hibernation after the rest.
Nygra had found a fossil of a mermaid and that become important in the vaccine that Iona was producing and the cure he was working on. An astonishing side effect is that once the patients are in the water they develop gills and can stay underwater for a long time. They also continue to be able to breathe on land.
They establish that the hibernation is an important part of making the drug effective.
Iona and Nygard are killed during a final show-down. Aster, who has always been good at maths and science at school, resolves to continue her aunt’s work.
The novel is 276 pages long in the paperback edition. The text is blocked and has a normal adult font.