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.