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The Likeness by Tana French

This much is mine, though: everything I did. Frank puts it all down to the others ... while as far as I can tell Sam thinks that, in some obscure and slightly bizarro way, it was Lexie's fault. When I say it wasn't like that, they give me careful sideways looks and change the subject ... But give me more credit than that. Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons.
from page 3

The Likeness is Tana French's follow up to her novel In The Woods. The previous novel focused on Rob Ryan as narrator; the follow up is narrated by Ryan's former partner Cassie Maddox and the action commences in the months following the conclusion of the events portrayed in In The Woods. A little tidbit for French fans: her next novel will have for its narrator Frank Mackey, Maddox's old undercover boss who was introduced to us in The Likeness. And while I anxiously awaited her second novel, I'm not sure about the third; Mackey was a character I detested.

In this new novel one of Maddox's aliases from her stint in undercover comes back to haunt her when the body of a woman who could be her twin is found murdered. The woman has slipped seamlessly and effortlessly into the identity of Lexie Madison; it's an alias Maddox used years ago in an undercover operation that ended badly. Maddox's boyfriend, who remains on the Murder Squad, Sam O'Neil has caught the case. Reluctantly he allows Maddox's former undercover boss, Frank Mackey, to engineer a crazy scheme in which Maddox re-assumes her old undercover identity and infiltrates the house that the woman they know only as Lexie shared with four other graduate students to ferret out more clues to the woman's true identity and that of her murderer. All three detectives soon realize that while the four roommates all have their own secrets to hide, Lexie may have had the most to hide.

French infuses a sense of foreboding from the very beginning of her book that can only foreshadow how very badly both the undercover operation and the book will end not just for the roommates, but for the detectives as well. French does this like no other author and this bleak sense of foreboding runs throughout every beautifully, exquisitely suspenseful chapter as she allows the reader to eavesdrop on the intimate thoughts of the narrator as each clue and detail is slowly revealed. And while the ending is sad for some characters, it is hopeful for others and in that way it differs from how In The Woods ended. Ultimately the overarching theme is how life events can destroy our relationships and lives if we allow them to spin wildly out of control, allowing them to beat us down and disillusion us. And while it seems that in the end some characters are broken by the shattering resolution of the mystery, others pull themselves up and are determined to survive it.

I highly recommend this book. This book is available in adult fiction at the Matthews Public Library and upon request from Annville Free Library and Lebanon Community Library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Jeff Fister said…
I've just read all three of Tana French's novels in the space of a month or so (dreadful midwestern winter) and this one was my favorite. Although her most recent — Faithful Place — is probably the best written, this one best probed the protagonist's mind, in this case detective Cassie Maddox. In the first book, In The Woods, Rob Ryan came off as such a selfish jerk that ultimately I couldn't relate to him or rationalize some of his decisions. In Faithful Place, Frank Mackey was well drawn, but too idealized... way too Irish romantic with a ton of flaws, never fatal, and ultimately too, well, dashing. But Cassie Maddox from The Likeness rings the most true. Even though there's a suspension of disbelief in this book bigger than the Golden Gate bridge,you can't help but go along for the ride, never knowing what the witty, impulsive, obsessed Cassie will say or do. And that's probably because Cassie is probably most like the author — but I'm only guessing.

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