April 11, 2005

BOOKS: Cast of Shadows, Kevin Guilfoile (2005)

Davis Moore is a fertility doctor, specializing in reproductive cloning, who never quite recovers from the murder of his teenage daughter. The police were able to gather DNA samples from the crime scene, but never identified a suspect, and finally close the case, returning the girl's personal effects to Davis in a box.

Also in that box, thanks to police clumsiness, is a vial containing the crime-scene DNA sample, which Davis uses (most illegally) as the genetic source for the child of his current client, hoping that someday he'll be able to track down the killer through his genetic double.

Obviously, we're off into the Land of Preposterous here, and Guilfoile's thriller does have more coincidences and implausibilities than you can count. The story doesn't get any less far-fetched as it goes along -- much of the second half takes place inside a video game -- but it zips along with great energy, and Guilfoile's characters are so well-developed and convincing that they hold your interest even as you're snickering at the absurdities of the story.

Despite himself, Guilfoile's written a highly entertaining thriller here; if he can learn to control his more baroque plotting instincts, he might someday write a great one.

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