Howdy. Did you miss me? Sorry for my absence. Chalk it up to writer’s block and some good old fashioned burnout. I can’t promise I’ll be back every week, it is spring and every moment not at work should be spent outside, but I’m finally feeling inspired enough by a book to share.
Guys. You already heard me extoll the genius of Tana French here. I super loved The Secret Place (her most recent) and immediately picked up In The Woods. While I didn’t love it quite as much (uh, there’s no boarding school, duh) and the character of Rob is very unlikeable, I still raced through it breathlessly until the spectacularly self-destructive and wonderfully written ending. Every word French uses is elegant and perfect, even the Dublin slang thrown into each story for good measure. Since I love them SO much, I have been pacing myself with the Murder Squad, delaying starting the next story until now. Ugh I wish I hadn’t waited so long!
The Likeness picks up six months after the end of In The Woods, and is told by Cassie Maddox, former undercover and the partner of Woods‘ Rob. Cassie has left the Squad to work in Domestic Violence, craving something more stable after the clusterf*ck of her last case with Rob. She’s bored and restless, unhappy with the relative boredom of her job and bucking under the stability of her long-term relationship with Squad member Sam. One morning she gets a frantic call from him to come to a crime scene — where she finds the body of a woman who is essentially her identical. And oh yeah, she’s using Cassie’s former alias. Undercover cop Frank Mackey convinces Sam to tell everyone she’s alive, and Cassie to return to undercover work for this investigation, infiltrating the home of Lexie Maddox and her four best friends who are considered suspects. Cassie gets to know them and becomes a part of their “family,” while learning that Lexie wasn’t anything but the smoke and mirrors of a girl with a past. As she pokes and prods, Cassie finds the cracks in the “family” and does everything she can, in every shade of moral-gray, to catch her man.
Like The Secret Place, I super loved this book. Cassie was a complex and relatable character and I thought French did a fantastic job weaving her past with her present. When she becomes Lexie, the words dance off the page and I never wanted it to end. While I loved Cassie, this book would be nothing without its supporting cast. On the one hand, you have Sam and Frank, coaching through the investigation and providing her with the links she needs (though she doesn’t always think so) to stay tethered to the real world, and on the other you have the housemates. Gah, they are the best collection of weirdos ever. All are grad students and all are escaping pasts they’re trying desperately to forget. Daniel, the quote-unquote patriarch, inherited the house and is a super socially-awkward guy. For reals. Abby is the quiet and caring mothering type, perfect to play off Lexi/Cassie’s wild streak. Justin is the sensitive gay one (and the only one who goes a little too heavy on the stereotype). Rafe is the hot and hot-tempered one from England. And of course there’s Lexie, the character who drives it all. She is reckless and free, secretive and dangerous. With all this damage, they can definitely live in their own utopia, right? Right. Totally sustainable.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again (when I allow myself to embrace my destiny and bellyflop into the series and finish it in one fell swoop — it’s only a matter of time), my favorite part of the French novels is the complexity of the characters and their relationships. The richness with which she writes takes a simple mystery (step one: girl is dead, step two: investigate crime, step three: find killer) and elevates it to a story that haunts you. I found myself sitting at work thinking about the characters and what it would be like to be in their situation. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the world she created. French effortlessly weaves in the themes of family, commitment, freedom, and sacrifice and leaves the reader wanting more, more, more. And of course the ending is perfect. Suspenseful as can be and completely satisfying.
Rating: 9, Just shy of perfect (Can’t put it down! Well rounded with exceptional characters and style.)