RedStarReviews is happy to bring you a special guest review by FrenchFryWife
The Likeness by Tana French
Tana French made a splash with her debut novel In the Woods, which circles two mysteries and ends with raising even more questions. It is the first in French’s multi book set, which is (awesomely) titled The Dublin Murder Squad Series. The Likeness picks up shortly after ITW and follows Cassie Maddox, a previous undercover detective who now works domestic violence. She is called to a crime scene that normally wouldn’t involve her unit because of a highly unusual find: the murder victim looks exactly like Cassie and has an ID card with her old undercover alias.
Realizing an amazing opportunity to (literally) walk in the victim’s shoes, Cassie’s former boss Frank Mackey convinces her to impersonate “Lexie Madison” in an attempt to solver her murder. The police claim that Lexie made a miraculous recovery at the hospital and doesn’t remember much from the evening of the attack. Cassie returns to the house shared by Lexie and her four roommates, a motley crew of grad students who are the main suspects. Cassie falls easily in step with her new lifestyle and begins digging through Lexie’s world to find information leading to her tragic death. It’s not long before the line between Cassie and “Lexie” blurs, putting the murder case and Cassie’s life in danger.
First off, you must know that it’s not required to read In the Woods before starting this book because all the major plot points are discussed. However, if you enjoy rich character development and back story, I highly recommend it. I really enjoyed The Likeness because it weaves through shady pasts and mind games. At first I found myself wondering which of the roommates were lying, but later found myself much more interested in why. The odd group of friends can seem at once fiercely loyal and inseparable. Then, like a light switch, they are guarded and vague with each other.
For a good portion of the story, there is much more psychological play than real action. It may seem slow for some readers but I liked falling down the rabbit hole with Cassie. The one true problem I had was suspending belief for the basic premise: the idea that a total stranger, no matter how talented, could replace another person so convincingly that even the people who saw her every day would not know. Frank holds a boot camp of sorts and in just a few days, Cassie masters Lexie’s cadence, accent, laugh, and dry humor. To be fair, she falters a few times but Cassie recovers with quick thinking. To be more fair, my favorite movie is about a theme park with dinosaurs so I will not begin casting stones.
The Likeness is that special type of book where I was hungry to know the truth but didn’t want the story to end. I look forward to continuing French’s series and meeting more quirky, authentically Irish, and sometimes homicidal characters. If you are looking for a murder mystery with layers of psychological intrigue, I highly recommend The Likeness.