A SENSE OF SHADOW by Kate Wilhelm


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A gimmicky occult/sf/suspense item, which never rises above its contrivances despite Wilhelm's superior narrative technique. John Culbertson, 80, is dying on his $20,000,000 estate that fills an Oregon valley, and calls his four children home for his death. To partake of his will his three sons and daughter must have EEG tests made now and also one week after his death (with all heirs remaining on the premises for the week). And it soon becomes clear to them that the old man hopes to invade or possess one of them and have this phenomenon proved by Prof. Hugh Froelich, who can match up brain waves with EEG charts. Each child--bearlike, guiltridden Mallory, tall, lanky, intense Conrad, slight, two-years-married Lucas, obese Janet, a virgin at 35--has a vivid reason to hate old Culbertson; each is the issue of a separate disastrous marriage. And when the old man dies during their visit, Lucas' wife Ginny immediately has a weird experience with uprooted plants and bursting flowerpots--the first of a series of ghostly victimizations, all related to the fate of those doomed Culbertson wives. Then the heirs become victimized by each other's psyches, taking on each other's guilts and visions, and at last everyone is involved in a relay as if ghosts are racing from brain to brain, and the plot fragments into round-robin horrors flitting from one character to another. . . . The EEG device is a phony suspense item, and the whole idea is too artificial for the reader to accept with any emotional seriousness, though the pace and detail are meant to woo us beyond mere genre fiction. An interesting notion that falls flat--for occult fans only, not Wilhelm's wider readership.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin