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by Barbara D'Amato
Tor, June 2002
336 pages
ISBN: 0765300249

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dooley McSweeney is a surgical pathologist at a Manhattan hospital. He and his lovely red-haired wife, Claudia, have a bright and adorable red-haired little boy named Teddy. He's adopted, and they've told him the truth about his adoption carefully, in an age- appropriate way, since the beginning. Teddy is truly a much-loved child. But though they have told Teddy the truth, someone didn't tell Dooley the truth about this child that looks so much like his adopted mother, as he begins to suspect four years after the fact, when an illness requires that Teddy have some tests that reveal information Dooley finds odd.

Surgical pathologists as a group often behave as if they would far prefer to observe the whole world from at least the distance of their microscopes, in the same way they observe specimens instead of real people in their work. Dooley is by nature as mild-mannered as Clark Kent before he turns into Superman ... and Dooley has no wish to become Superman. However, he can't help himself, as D'Amato moves the plot of this gripping book along.

A second plot moves along in tandem with the first; this second one features an American documentary film maker and well-known television reporter named Gabrielle Coulter, and her cameraman-fiance, Justin. They are making a documentary about adoptable orphans from foreign countries, primarily Romania and Russia. In Russia, very early in the book, Justin is murdered on the very night after he and Gabrielle have been filming in a Moscow orphanage. The murderers also destroy all their camera equipment and video tapes. What they don't know is that Gabrielle has a set of duplicate tapes in the large handbag she carries with her everywhere.

There is a third plot element that uses a device I wish authors would stop using, because it is becoming tiresome in these days when it seems every single tension-filled book has to have thriller elements even if it's not ostensibly a thriller -- this device doesn't have a name so far as I know, but you'll recognize it easily enough when you come across it: It's the one where a major player is never called by name, though everyone else is. So you know right off he's going to be THE bad guy, but you have to keep reading to the veryvery end in order to get his real name. In this book, that character is called The Boss. Unfortunately (maybe fortunately, I dunno, I was just too irritated) I figured out his identity very early on.

So you also know by now that these three plots are going to hook up and cross at some point, don't you? And you probably know that mild-mannered Dooley and oh so attractive Gabrielle are going to encounter one another too, don't you? Yep.

I am sorry that the publisher, Forge, rushed to put out another book by D'Amato as quickly as they could, one assumes in order to trade upon her having won the Clark award, which they tell us is given to "the author whose work most resembles that of Mary Higgins Clark." That much is true -- there are many elements in WHITE MALE INFANT that are at least somewhat reminiscent of MH Clark's early work, particularly WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN, which was the book that rocketed Clark to the top, where she has stayed these many years. However, a more careful edit of WHITE MALE INFANT would have done Barbara D'Amato good service. There are far too many instances where, reading along, I wanted to say either to the character or to the author, "Hey, don't do that, you know better!" Certainly, if pushed and given time by an editor to do it, a pro like D'Amato would made the changes. Prime example: There is a mistake, an editing mistake, in Chapter 23 that is so bad and so obviously not the author's fault, I wanted to weep for her. It's the kind of thing copy editors are paid to catch.

In spite of what some may think of as nitpicks (but I've decided to stop ignoring these things, in the hope publishers will start paying editors enough and giving them time enough to really edit again), Barbara D'Amato is a good author and can put together a book in a professional way. Certainly the subject of WHITE MALE INFANT will pull at your heartstrings, and that alone can keep you reading.

Ava Day


Reviewed by Ava D. Day, July 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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