Book Review – “Cast of Shadows”

This is the first novel by Kevin Guilfoile. Keep an
eye out for that name.

General Information

Title: Cast of Shadows

Author: Kevin Guilfoile

Original Publication Date: 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4308-5

Cover Price: $24.95 US, $34.95 Canadian

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Past fiction reviews can be found here.


In the not too distant future, cloning is relatively
People can allow their DNA to be used to grow a new
child for a family
once the gene donor has died, providing an alternative
means for
infertile families to raise children of their own.

This story is centred around one cloner in particular.
He is faced
with the news that his daughter was raped and
murdered. He spends
months waiting to hear that her killer is caught, but
that news never
comes. Eventually, the investigation is ended, and
his daughter’s
things are returned to him.

Among those things is a sample of DNA that doesn’t
belong to his
daughter. If you were in his place, what would you

High Point

The clarity of Justin’s character. This is one of the
most detailed
and well explored character I’ve ever read about. His
psychology is
what drives the novel.

Low Point

The early focus on domestic life. It lends the
opening a slow feeling
that makes it difficult to really get engaged. The
introductory act
is just too long. It does establish the life Davis
had before, and it
helps us get to know Anna, but I think it might have
been more
effective to leave those memories out of the
introduction, and to
introduce the ideas as haunting dreams after the fact.
This would
help get things moving at first, and allow brief
reprieves later that
would indicate Davis’ mindset will providing a
contrast between his
lives then and now on the first read through.

The Scores

This is definitely an original approach to a
mystery novel.
The suspense is there, but the delivery and conclusion
are remarkably
atypical of that genre. You become engaged with all
the characters,
particularly Justin, and get taken through
investigative paths that
are convincingly developed for the novel. I give it 5
out of 6.

The imagery is clear when the story needs it
to be, and
merely present when it is unimportant. It’s an
effective and
important balance that is pulled off nicely. I give
it 5 out of 6.

The story has a slightly awkward opening, but
after that,
everything moves along quite nicely. I give it 4 out
of 6.

The characterization is excellent. These
characters have
well defined psychologies. Guilfoile has clearly put
a lot of effort
into getting into the heads of these people, and
thinking the way they
do to determine how the story moves forward. Justin
in particular is
extremely well constructed. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is very strong, as a
direct result of
that character depth. These people seem real, and the
relationship to them feels intimate. When they put
themselves in
danger, it becomes remarkably effective. The final
two chapters will
take some time to process, but I like books that way.
This is a
remarkably effective novel. I give it 6 out of 6.

The editing could have trimmed things up at
the beginning,
but it’s solid for the rest of the novel, which is
impressive given
the volume of seemingly minor details which eventually
important. I didn’t notice a single typesetting
issue, either, which
is somewhat rare in a first printing. I give it 5 out
of 6.

Overall, this is an excellent sci-fi suspense
thriller, well
worth your time. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Cast of Shadows receives 36 out of

Additional Notes and Comments

Random House is hosting a few web pages about this
novel. You can
read an
(which doesn’t spoil anything I haven’t
already spoiled), a
session with the author
(which is interesting, but
does have some
spoilers), and a reading
group guide
with some ideas to think about in the
context of the
novel. These definitely include spoilers.
Guilfoile’s personal

includes a number of selections of a more humourous
nature. (The one
I sampled at random, Crossing
, had me laughing out loud.)