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Tana French – The Likeness

March 30, 2011

42. The Likeness by Tana French (2008)
Dublin Murder Squad, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. In the Woods

Length: 468 pages
Genre: Mystery

Started: 14 March 2011
Finished: 19 March 2011

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? In the Woods blew me away, and I knew I wanted to read the rest of French’s books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 31 October 2009.

A murder victim
who looks just like a cop. A
dead ringer, get it?

Summary: After the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox has transferred off of Murder Squad and into Domestic Violence. But it’s never that easy to leave the past behind. One evening she gets a frantic call from her boyfriend, who is still on Murder, asking her to come down to a crime scene. It’s a breach of typical protocol, but as soon as she gets to the scene, she understands why: the victim is a dead ringer for Cassie herself, and what’s more, all of her ID cards list her as Lexie Madison. The only problem is, Lexie Madison doesn’t exist; she’s a cover identity made up by Cassie’s boss back when Cassie used to work in Undercover. Now, in order to solve the murder, Cassie must go undercover again, this time posing as the dead girl. But not only does this put her in danger from Lexie’s murderer, it also puts her in danger of losing herself – her real self – in Lexie’s life.

Review: Fan-freaking-tastic. That’s the sum total of my response to this book. It was marvelous, wonderful, and all sorts of other superlatives. I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about it, not a single thing I would have changed; it’s getting one of my rare five-star ratings. It was that good.

I loved it so much that I’m having a hard time writing this review. I can’t even put my finger on what, exactly, I loved about it. On the surface, I might have expected to have some issues with it – in particular, with the set up of a group of pretentious, eccentric, clique-ish students that are dealing with the death of one of their own – a definite throwback to Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Secret History, neither of which I particularly liked. But that structure didn’t bother me here – quite the opposite, in fact. Where I found the friends in those other books to be obnoxious and in need of a good kick down a flight of stairs, in The Likeness, I found Lexie’s friends and life very appealing, and, like Cassie, I found myself wishing I could slip into that life for good. Cassie in general was very relatable throughout the story; we’re about the same age, and she’s sympathetic enough that her problems became my problems, to a heartwrenching degree.

The Likeness didn’t have quite the same lyrical quality to the language as In the Woods – it was still incredibly well-written, but I didn’t find myself wanting to copy down quotes from every page. However, as a mystery it had the same wonderful pacing of clues and action, the same fine balance between character and plot development, and the same sustained degree of tension throughout. I thought the ending was perfect – fewer unanswered questions than In the Woods, but enough ambiguity to leave you thinking about it. It was emotionally charged as well – once again, I finished the book feeling wrung out; I was that heavily invested in Cassie’s (and Lexie’s) story. Just brilliant, all around. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Yes, absolutely! Even if you’re not big into mysteries (I’m not, either), this book is simply stunning, and superbly done. It could be read separately from In the Woods – there are a fair number of references made to the events of that book, but they’re summarized well enough, and much more to do with Cassie’s state of mind; the plot of the mystery stands completely on its own.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: A Book a Week, Book Addiction, The Book Whisperer, Care’s Online Book Club, Chasing Bawa, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, Life With Books, The Literate Housewife Review, Ms Bookish, NYC Book Girl, Piling on the Books, Reading Matters, Reviewsbylola’s Blog, Rhapsody in Books Weblog, Vulpes Libris, A Work in Progress
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Some nights, if I’m sleeping on my own, I still dream about Whitethorn House.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 10:10 am

    I agree! The writing style was indeed different, and after just finishing the third of her books, Faithful Place, I really think that’s part of what makes her brilliant. Each book was written in first person, so each book had a different voice. The main character in Faithful Place is Frank – and he definitely has a unique way of putting things!

    • April 1, 2011 9:44 am

      Carrie – That’s a very good point! Since the “missing” lyrical bits were mostly description, I wasn’t thinking of them in terms of being part of the character’s voice… but since the books are first-person, of course they are! Although that’s interesting to think about Rob thinking in that kind of flowing prose inside his own head…

  2. March 30, 2011 2:43 pm

    I’ve got to try her work – everyone seems to love it!

  3. March 31, 2011 12:47 pm

    I read In the Woods and am looking forward to reading this one. Glad to see you loved it.

    • April 1, 2011 9:59 am

      Carol – I did! I didn’t believe people when they told me that it was even better than In the Woods, but they were right, it was! I hope you’re able to read it, and that you love it as much as I did.

  4. March 31, 2011 5:39 pm

    Why oh why haven’t I read Tana French yet? She sounds fantastic.

    (An aside : I have just noticed she’s Tana, not Tanya. My tendency to insert random letters into names strikes again!)

    • April 1, 2011 10:01 am

      Memory – She really, really is. I don’t read much (hardly any) crime fiction, but Tana French is one exception I will make.

  5. April 2, 2011 11:49 am

    Somewhere in my reader’s brain, while I was reading this one, and also while I was reading In the Woods, I was thinking that some editing could have tightened the story nicely. But I simply didn’t care. I was so caught up in the characters that I would have read on and on and on, and I find it hard, too, to put my finger on why that was exactly.

    • April 11, 2011 9:57 am

      BiP – I agree on all counts! I think I get intimidated by the length of her books, but I never notice it once I’m actually reading it.

  6. April 4, 2011 10:23 am

    I think Tana French is a talented and creative writer. I have a friend who just couldn’t get into this book and has decided French just isn’t her cuppa-tea. And that’s OK, too. I was rather amazed, though.

    • April 11, 2011 9:58 am

      Care – My mom pretty much only reads crime fiction/forensic mysteries/etc., but she loved In the Woods, so it’s one of the only spots where our reading intersects. :)

  7. March 4, 2012 1:58 pm

    I totally agree. Fantastic book. This is the first from French that I have read and can’t wait to grab the other two.


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