Wednesday 22 August 2012

Sander Verheijen's Book To Die For - Wicker by Kevin Guilfoile

Sander Verheijen (1974) is the chief editor and founder of, the number one review and reader’s site for Crime Fiction & thrillers in The Netherlands and Belgium.  The site started in 2002. He left the thriller site in 2005 and worked several years as an editor for crime fiction and later on as a marketing manager at large publishing houses (2005-2010) and started his own graphical design studio.  In 2010, he returned to as chief editor and reviewer.  Verheijen has interviewed a large number of national and international crime writers, designed many book covers and works as a columnist for a Dutch men’s magazine.

When I was asked to name that one book to die for, I knew I would suffer some nights thinking about it.  I am a huge fan of the genre for almost 25 years, and working “in it” for the last ten.  Of course, I read many, many thrillers, but to make such a decision was hard.

One book to die for.  I could easily say “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow and “The Wire in the Blood” or “A Place of Execution” by Val McDermid, and of course Harlan Coben’s “Tell no one” or “Gone for Good”.  They would all end high in my personal list of books to die for.  If there was a list...  Not one. ONE book to die for, was my mission.  Just one...  That one book had to be a special one.  One you could possibly never forget, even if you wanted to.

That one book to die for me is a book that was published seven years ago by Knopf in New York.  A debut novel, written by Kevin Guilfoile, and titled “Cast of Shadows”.  In the UK, it was named “Wicker” and published by Penguin.

For me it started with that one sentence on the shiny red cover of the American hardback edition: ‘How far would you go to look into the face of your daughter’s murderer’.

It was this book on the pile on my new desk that got my immediate attention.  I had just started working as an editor for a Dutch publishing house.  It was the first book I read from an editor’s point of view, and not with the eyes of the reviewer, I had been the years before.

Wicker” begins with the heartbreaking story of Dr. Davis Moore, a fertility doctor in Chicago specialising in reproductive cloning, a controversial and closely regulated new practice.

In a time that the clinic he works for is subject on many discussions and violent and life-threatening protests, Moore’s seventeen-year-old daughter is brutally raped and murdered.  The case is investigated but never solved.  A year later, Moore retrieves her belongings from the police, and finds among them a vial containing the killer’s DNA.  Tormented by grief, Moore entertains a monstrous thought: the possibility of cloning not his daughter but the man who killed her.

To discover the murderers identity Moore decides - against all rules, regulations, and moral concerns - to use the DNA sample for one of his new clients, knowing that the baby will once be an identical copy of his daughter’s rapist and killer.

Goosebumps already?  The moral dilemmas Dr. Moore faces are terrifying real.  Especially when you know that, it takes many years to see the results, assuming the killer was an adult.

Part two of the book starts when Justin, the cloned kid, is fourteen years old.  America is under the spell of Shadow World, an online role-playing game.  An online environment, very similar to “Second Life”.  When there is a serial killer active in the real, as well in the virtual world, Justin has a more than average interest in this case.  From that moment on, we follow the two main characters, Justin and Dr. Moore, in their own search for justice, leading to a climax that gives you shivers and will not be easily left behind. 

It is not often that I read a book that made such a huge impact on me as a reader, and as an editor.  Of course, I bought the translation rights and we published it a year later.  It did gain very good reviews but unfortunately, it did not become the success I thoroughly hoped for.  Now, seven year later, I am very happy to see that Kevin Guilfoile got his well-deserved second chance in The Netherlands with this wonderfully written and thoroughly composed psychological thriller.  Brought by a new publishing house, with a new title and a new cover.  I do not think it will be a huge bestseller now, but it is another possibility for crime fiction readers here to discover this one book to die for. 

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