Books: The Likeness by Tana French

Some years ago one of the publicity agencies sent me Tana French's In the Woods, and I loved it. So then they sent me The Likeness. I started to read it, but when I realized French had ditched Rob [as narrator] for Cassie, I tossed it aside. I felt that betrayed by the switch.

But recent favorite television series—Broadchurch, True Detective—reminded me of French's writing. Because while I had only the vaguest recollection of the story of In the Woods, I very much recall the tone of the writing, the feeling. And it was very like these shows. So I went and picked up The Likeness once more.

Getting past the extreme coincidence that is the core plot of the book—that Detective Cassie Maddox looks almost exactly like a murder victim, enough like her to fool those closest to her—the story is, like In the Woods, incredibly well written and absorbing. I'll admit it was a slow start, but once the train pulled out of the station so to speak, I found it very difficult to put the book down.

Cassie goes undercover as Lexie Madison, moving into the house she lived in with four housemates, trying to discern who stabbed and killed the girl. Was it one of the housemates? Someone from the village? But as Cassie immerses herself in the role, she is drawn to these four others and almost loses herself in the comfort of their shared lives.

There is power in French's storytelling. The reader feels the pull as much as Cassie. Each character is so neatly and distinctly drawn that the absurd situation no longer matters; one can put it aside and relish the writing, the characters, and yes, even the almost ridiculous story.

This series, which I think is called "Dublin Murder Squad," has a few more books in it, and my guess is they all have different narrators. I won't hold that against French this time. But these books are also like a heavy meal; you can't eat (read) two in a row. You need time between them. I hope it won't take me quite as many years before I pick up the next one, but in the meantime I need to find a light snack of something to read . . .

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