Monday, August 31, 2015
The Likeness by Tana French
Published July 2008 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: purchased this one in 2012 - thanks to the price tag which shows the year, I know exactly how long this one was sitting on my shelves
Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still recovering, Transferred out of Dublin's Murder squad at her own request, she vows never to return. That is, until her boyfriend, Detective Sam O'Neill, calls her one beautiful spring morning, urgently asking her to come to a murder scene in the small town of Glenskehy. It isn't until Cassie sees the body that she understands Sam's insistence.
The dead girl is Cassie's double, and she carries ID identifying her as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie herself used years ago when she worked undercover. The question becomes not only who killed this girl, but who was this girl. Frank Mackey, Cassie's former undercover boss, sees the opportunity of a lifetime. Having played Lexie Madison once before, Cassie is in the perfect position to take her place. The police will tell the media and Lexie's four housemates that the stab wound wasn't fatal. And Cassie will go on living Lexie's life until the killer is lured out to finish off the job.
It's a brilliant idea, until Cassie finds herself more emotionally involved in Lexie's life than she anticipated. Sharing the charming ramshackle old Whitethorn House with Lexie's strange, tight-knit group of university friends, Cassie is slowly seduced by the victim's way of life, by the thought of working on a murder investigation again, and by the mystery of the victim herself. As Cassie nears the truth about what happened to Lexie Madison and who she really was, the lines between professional and personal, work and play, reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, and Cassie moves closer to losing herself forever.
The summary says that Cassie was "slowly seduced by the victim's way of life" but it seemed to me that it happened much more quickly than that. Before Cassie had even stepped foot in Whitethorn House, she was drawn to Lexie's housemates and the bond they appeared to have. Cassie hungers for a family, having been orphaned as a young girl, and the chance to be a part of the family Lexie's friends have created is too much to resist. But her actions are equally the fault of the relationship she has with Frank Mackey. Although their goal would appear to be the same, both hold back vital pieces of potential evidence. The result is almost catastrophic.
This is the fourth book I've read by Tana French and, as with the other three, I'm impressed by French's ability to set a mood, to convey the language of Ireland, and to weave a complex mystery. I'm most impressed, once again, by French's characters and their relationships. They are complex, nuanced, and well-developed. Most of all, they are incredibly real.
I had a couple of quibbles with the story itself which had, primarily to do with places where logic seemed to have failed. For example, Lexie went for a walk every night late at night. When Cassie steps in as Lexie, she picks this up so as to stay in character. My issue with this was twofold - why would her roommates, her best friends, allow her to go off alone down the very lanes where she had been attacked? and why would Cassie and Frank think it was a good idea for her to put herself in that kind of danger nightly without immediate backup? French puts this down to being something that Lexie would have done regardless of what happened. I didn't buy it.
I can't remember the last time I picked up the next book in a series immediately after having finished the previous one, but that's exactly what I did with this book. I found it to be both a good idea and a less than ideal one. The characters from the previous book are all fresh - it's easy to recall their characteristics and mannerisms. Unfortunately, it also means that you don't need any of the refreshing details that authors include to bring new readers up to speed and, as they did here for me, they can get in the way of the current storyline.
And yet...I loved it. I loved getting into Cassie's head and watching the relationship with the roommates develop. And I loved that, after the success of her previous book, French did not fall into the trap of following the same pattern here. The ending was both unexpected and perfect.