Review #36: The Likeness by Tana French

I wasn’t kidding when I said Tana French is like crack to me. I was fiending for another one of her books and couldn’t focus on any other books! I was really trying to hold out for Into the Woods to come in at the library but my mom had a copy of The Likeness and I was leaving for a week-long trip and I couldn’t resist. I read this in about two days (I read instead of sight-seeing in D.C.)–it was SO good.

Detective Cassie Maddox is a recent transfer to the Domestic Violence unit of the Dublin police force after a horrific case in her old department (Homicide) shook her up so much that she needed to get out (this is the mystery in Into the Woods). She’s finally adjusting to her new position when she’s called to a murder scene in the countryside. The victim, a young woman, looks exactly like her. And to further complicate things, her I.D. identifies her as Alexandra Madison–the alter-ego Cassie created as an undercover cop at the beginning of her career. Although at first she wants nothing to do with the case, her old boss convinces her to impersonate Lexi and infiltrate her life, in order to solve the case from the inside. Cassie agrees reluctantly, and moves in with Lexi’s four best friends, but soon finds herself becoming immersed deeper and deeper into Lexi’s world.

Again, Tana French is a master at what she does. She’s particularly good at handling mental illness in her protagonists–it’s interesting that she’s clearly drawn to unreliable narrators. It’s hard to keep the narrative grounded and appealing to the reader while also making your main character break more and more with reality, but French overcomes this challenge incredibly well. Unreliable narrators can often be difficult to handle, especially when their unreliability is an obvious part of the story, but French makes her narrators complex and believable, even when we can’t really believe what they’re saying.

The mystery is, as I expected, super engaging. This is the definition of a page-turner–I had to know what happened! I really love how the solutions to her mysteries are always much simpler than you’d expect. That’s one of the reasons French is so good, I think–in real life, these things are rarely as overblown and complex as shows like Law and Order would have you believe.

One last thing: I was told to read Into the Woods first. I actually don’t think it’s totally necessary to read them in order; French doesn’t give anything away in The Likeness other than that the first mystery was horrific and emotionally draining. I may have appreciated this one more if I’d read ItW first, but I loved this one so I don’t know.

Anyway, I can’t recommend this book enough. Tana French is awesome.


One thought on “Review #36: The Likeness by Tana French

  1. Good review! I don’t know if it is necessary narratively to read In the Woods first because I’m reading the series in order. But I think knowing what happened during In the Woods makes you sympathize with Cassie more. I loved The Likeness because I really liked Cassie in the previous book and in The Likeness she is just broken and lost and it is just enormously compelling and shattering. The Likeness is structured as your standard “undercover cop gets in too deep and loses focus” story but with that extra knowledge of what happened to her it worked so well for me. It just felt like a true portrayal of what a detective would really be going through after a case like that. I need to read Faithful Place next, but I have recommended both of French’s first 2 books to anyone who will listen.

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