BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the near future, human cloning has become common place. Dr. Davis Moore takes the unusual step of cloning his daughter’s killer, in the hopes of discovering who he is.
PROS: An engaging and thought-provoking novel when discussing the issues of human cloning; Guilfoile has created a believable near future USA.
CONS: Short on thrills for a thriller; the plot drives the character’s actions.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong debut novel that does a great job covering the issues, both moral and ethical, surrounding human cloning.
Dr. Davis Moore works for a cloning clinic, helping couples have children that might otherwise be unable to conceive. The US has put strict laws in place surrounding the cloning, with a major stipulation being that the donor for the clone must be dead before a clone can be produced. As can be imagined, there is serious opposition to cloning from many quarters, with a militant faction of detractors resorting to terroristic tactics, including murder, to force doctors and clinics to stop cloning. Dr. Moore’s daughter is raped and murdered while closing the store where she was working. The killer gets away and, while there are no suspects, he did leave DNA traces behind. Dr. Moore takes the step to clone his daughter’s killer in the hopes of discovering what the killer looks like, and bringing him to justice. He does this by fudging the cloning procedure for a young couple, and giving them the clone of the killer. Guilfoile uses this as a springboard for discussing cloning and for providing an interesting murder yarn.
The striking thing about this book, aside from the fact this is Mr. Guilfoile’s first novel, is the rational and critical way it looks at the issues of cloning. The character’s engage in debate on the moral and ethics of cloning, usually skillfully woven into the story, and no one seems to be preachy about it. The society that’s been created is plausible, although I did find that Guilfoile does tend to use stereotypes to set up the groups on either side, with religious and conservative groups opposed to cloning and other, more liberal groups for it. But then again, that’s a reflection on how the sides are drawn today, and lends the air of plausibility to the story. Mr. Guilfoile’s writing is clear and uncluttered, and never gets in the way of the story. He’s created a sympathetic, if conflicted, protagonist in David Moore and the other characters are believable, if not as fleshed out as the doctor. This is a very fine first novel.
The two main complaints I have are in how the book was written. First, the book is billed as a psychological thriller. While there is certainly a lot of psychology here, especially of the nature vs. nurture kind, I found a lack of tension or drama. Certain set pieces really weren’t all the dramatic, or that frequent. I compare this to Red Dragon which had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Maybe an unfair comparison, but that I make anyway. Its not a huge negative, especially with how well he writes about the issues of cloning, but its still there. The second thing is that the characters and events seem to be driven by the plot, rather than there actions. Several times I felt the characters did things because the plot demanded it, rather than what they would normally do. Also, the reader, and Davis Moore, aren’t given a crucial piece of info until the very end. This comes in the form of police evidence, that has existed throughout the story, but that isn’t revealed early because the plot wouldn’t work otherwise. Both of these negatives serve to knock a star off of the final rating.
In short, Cast of Shadows is an interesting and thought provoking look at how human cloning could affect society. Worth a read if cloning interests you.