Saturday, March 05, 2011


The Likeness, Tana French, Viking Penguin, 2008, 466 pp

 I read Tana French's first novel, In the Woods, last year and loved it. In fact, one of my reading groups voted it Best Book Read in 2010. The Likeness is her follow up with Irish policewoman Cassie as the central character. When the story opens, she is pretty much in ruins over the break up with her partner from In the Woods and due to the outcome of the murder case they solved. 

 She is posted in Domestic Violence; not as boring as being a traffic cop but not stimulating in the least. Her new boyfriend, Sam, is still working in the Murder Squad. Cassie feels safe and comfortable with him but is suffering from some emotional damage that won't go away.

 The story opens with a slow but highly tense chapter culminating in the scene where she looks at herself dead on the floor of an abandoned cottage. Of course, it is not her but a complete doppelganger bearing the name Lexie Madison. The shock is due to a case Cassie worked on back before she was in the Murder Squad. She had gone undercover with the name Lexie Madison.

 The Likeness has a large number of despicable, possibly evil characters, all of whom serve to keep the reader and the cops off balance. Cassie goes back into Undercover, working for her old boss Frank, who is one of the despicable characters: cold, calculating, ambitious and a bit mad. In an uneasy alliance between Frank and Sam, Cassie becomes a pawn in the game as she once more assumes the identity of Lexie Madison.

 For the remaining 400 pages, Cassie is sucked into an identity crisis that touches on every personality weakness she has and almost loses herself in the process. You might wonder how Cassie can go undercover as a dead person. You will have to read the book. I am not telling.

 It is a captivating story, somehow modern and ancient at the same time. The pace is a tad slow and the descriptive writing a bit overdone, but the tension, the mystery and the psychological imbalance of almost all the characters kept me in gripping suspense. If you liked The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield or Atonement, by Ian McEwan or even Great Expectations by Dickens, this is the book for you.

(The Likeness can usually be found on the Mystery shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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