The Likeness: Haunting

March 13, 2009

I believe that Tana French’s The Likeness is one of the best books I have read so far in 2009.  Granted, I haven’t read all that many books so far and the ones I have read wouldn’t exactly be candidates for any “best book” list, but The Likeness has stayed with me weeks after I finished it.  It was similar to American Wife in that it was the second book I had ready by an author but happily, while both first books were disappointments to me, I really enjoyed The Likeness.

We met Detective Cassie Maddox in In the Woods.  This novel picks up six months after the events in that novel.  Detective Maddox has transferred out of murder to domestic and while she is in a relationship with another detective, she remains too shaken to commit to him.  Then one day, Cassie’s boyfriend discovers a body of a young woman who eerily resembles Cassie.  She not only resembles Cassie but also carries identification giving her the name of an identity Cassie used when she was undercover at the beginning of her career.  Cassie, however, has never met her.  Cassie feels compelled to help solve the mystery of what happened to the young woman and agrees to go undercover and assume the dead girl’s life as a graduate student living in a house of extremely close  misfits.

There is so much going on in this novel.  Set in Ireland, it’s moody and eerie.  French’s gift as a writer is getting into her characters’ heads.  They are all fully fleshed out.  There are layers of secrets to be revealed, and French handles them compellingly.  Interestingly, how the dead woman came to have Maddox’s undercover identity is never revealed, but really, it doesn’t matter.  French has deeper mysteries to solve.

I really can’t stop thinking about this novel.  It’s not exactly action-packed, but I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I thought the first quarter moved a little slowly as Cassie decided whether she would go undercover, but once she does, the book gets very interesting.


Why Mermaids Sing: Murder and John Donne

June 19, 2008

In 1811 London, someone is brutally killing young men and displaying the bodies in prominent places where they will be found quickly and attract much notice.  Never fear, for Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is on the case. It is obvious that the murders are connected based on items left on each body and the manner of death, and St. Cyr quickly tracks down the significance of the items to a John Donne poem.  What is less obvious is why the murders are connected.  St. Cyr along with a quirky cast of characters must figure out this connection before more murders occur.  At the same time, his mistress is acting mysterious and facing demons of her own and his relationship with his father continues to be strained.

Why Mermaids Sing is C.S. Harris’ third installment in her Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series.  I read the first book, What Angels Fear, a few years ago and stumbled across the sequels recently.  I remember liking the first book a lot.  I checked out the second and the third book in the series, but I grabbed the wrong one and read the third one first.  After reading the third one, I don’t think I’m going to go back and read the second one.

This book was an extremely quick read.  I had read 100 pages before I even realized it and finished it in about 4 hours.  It’s a good beach read.  In some ways the plot was too elegantly handled.  There is a grittiness to the situations faced and the characters themselves.  They are all haunted and scarred in ways visible and invisible, and the connection between the murdered sons is quite gruesome, but it’s almost easy to overlook because of the elegance of the novel.  Harris has a Ph.D in history, and her details and depiction of the beliefs and mores of the time are great.

This book won’t change your world, but it is a good, quick read if you like Regency or period murder mysteries.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of From Hell and other books dealing with Jack the Ripper (even though they are set in the later Victorian era).

Also recommended:  The Alienist (Carr)