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Book Club Wed Oct 11 2006

Introduction: Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile

Cast of Shadows is a lot of things. It's a mystery story, a sci-fi thriller, a troubling tale of murder and revenge, and a heartbreaker about loss of purpose and love. When Dr. Davis Moore's daughter, Anna Kat (AK), is found raped and murdered in the dressing room of the Gap where she worked, Davis embarks on a maddening trail to avenge her death. He will stop at nothing and will let no one keep him from bringing her killer to justice. This is Davis Moore's story.

Cast of Shadows takes place somewhere slightly in the future when cloning has become an acceptable practice for couples who can't conceive naturally or don't wish to pass on their genes. Although the practice is still a bit questionable to most of the public, it's become something of a savior to those couples in need. As one of the nation's leading doctors and proponents of the practice, Davis Moore finds himself in a sticky situation when the authorities bungle the evidence from AK's crime scene and accidentally leave him with a vial of semen and a lock of hair from the man who took AK from his life. Davis wants nothing more than to look into the eyes of his daughter's killer and with these genetic tools literally at hand the temptation is too great to resist. Davis follows his callous desires and the result is Justin Finn, a physical testament to AK's meaningless death who, under the guise of scientific study, Davis can follow throughout his life.

The story follows its characters all over the city, from north side neighborhoods to the suburbs to the University of Chicago to even the intensely fictional "Shadow World," a Sims-like computer game where players are encouraged to create double lives for themselves. With the very real "Wicker Man" taking lives in Wicker Park, Justin and a Tribune reporter embark on their own murder hunt, following the killer's online avatar throughout "Shadow Chicago" to discover clues to his identity. The game gives Justin a chance to create some purpose for his life, to do something more than serve as the flesh and blood that will give Davis peace. As Justin grows up and grows into the man he's destined to become, it's unclear how his life will proceed. Although genetic cloning is less a product of science fiction and more of a reality in Davis Moore's world, the nature/nurture debate is alive and well and no one knows when or if Justin will become the cold-hearted killer determined by his genetic predecessor.

Cast of Shadows raises many questions about scientific integrity and the meaning of personal justice, but more than anything it's a well-crafted story with full-bodied characters whose intentions, however despicable they may be to the reader, are completely understandable. If the idea of genre fiction –- whether it be science fiction, mysteries, or crime noir –- isn't instantly appealing, take note that Cast of Shadows is more about these characters' lives and the consequences they must pay for their decisions than it is about fitting into any one literary subset. If anything, it's an incredibly gripping read that leaves the reader questioning the degrees of right and wrong and wondering how far they would go for something in which they believed.

~*~

For more information on Kevin Guilfoile and Cast of Shadows, visit the official website at www.castofshawdows.net. You can also read my original Detour review here.

 
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