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Craig's Book Club
Book Recommendations

Spotlight on: Cast of Shadows (aka Wicker) by Kevin Guilfoile


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows (aka Wicker)

When his teenage daughter is killed, and no one is arrested for the crime, Dr. Davis Moore does the unthinkable: he clones the unidentified murderer from the genetic evidence and has the child adopted by an unsuspecting couple, the Finns, who name him Justin. With his partner as Justin's pediatrician, Moore is able to follow the child's development, hoping to eventually identify the killer through their similarities. But that's not as easy as it sounds.

Modern thrillers appear to be getting more and more sophisticated. Following the success of The Da Vinci Code (with its focus on religion, art, history, and puzzle solving), the average readers of bestsellers are no longer satisfied with the basic running-against-time plot. Now a book must exercise their "little grey cells" and purport to educate them in addition to raising their heart rate. (If only they would read something besides other Dan Brown novels.)

Kevin Guilfoile's debut novel, Cast of Shadows does just that. In addition to the suspense and tension created by the various scenarios (all interconnected, but often with conflicting motivations), there is a medical and philosophical thread that even the most jaded reader will find fascinating (and here, I guess, is where I'm supposed to say that the story is "ripped from today's headlines!!!").

But the science isn't overwhelming. Just enough information is given to keep things interesting and clear. And that's only the beginning -- the meat of Cast of Shadows concerns eighteen years of aftermath. Which brings Guilfoile's skill at characterization to the fore. In following characters over major spans of their lifetimes, the author cannot merely draw ciphers that only exist to further the plot: he must construct whole personalities that develop along with the different stages of life, and he must keep up with their possible choices (and those consequences) along the way.

Fittingly, the most fully developed character is the one for whom Cast of Shadows encompasses his life from before its beginning: Justin Finn, Boy Clone. Showing his development (physical, mental, emotional) throughout his childhood could have been no easy task (although making him precocious does take away the need to present truly childlike thoughts), but Guilfoile pulls it off with confidence, making Justin even more fascinating than the "villain" (and I always have a soft spot for those guys).

Watching Justin's thoughts advance so quickly that he even becomes aware of how he should behave at a given age -- and wondering which side the author is going to take on the nature/nurture debate -- was really what kept me enthralled throughout Cast of Shadows; I didn't really care all that much about the parents and doctors, though their actions were mostly responsible for the plot advancement. Even Guilfoile doesn't seem to care as much about them as he does the others. For example, the tragedies that befall Moore are not given nearly enough weight for their importance. We're told that he is distraught, but, other than the cloning itself, I never saw any evidence of this from Moore himself. Even when the second death occurs -- which, cumulatively, would have broken any average man -- Moore just goes on like always.

That said, there is a lot to recommend Cast of Shadows, not the least of which is his depiction of a video game called Shadow World, that sound utterly addictive. And his clever method of having characters swear without populating the book with gratuitous oaths. However, in trying to find the morally and philosophically "correct" ending, Guilfoile comes up with one that is overcomplicated and less satisfying than the rest of the book deserves. But, just like a terrific meal topped off by a mediocre dessert, it's still an event to remember and discuss long after the experience has ended.


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