The Likeness by Tana French

When a detective goes undercover to impersonate a murder victim sharing her face, she finds the family she’s always dreamed of and risks blowing everything.

I was a big fan of Tana French’s In the Woods, so I leapt at the chance to read The Likeness, her followup featuring several of the same characters.

Former detective Cassie Maddox is stuck in Domestic Violence after being forced off the Murder squad due to her role in the catastrophe outlined within In the Woods. A routine murder investigation turns very, very weird when it turns out that the victim, Lexie Madison, looks exactly like Cassie, and is using an identity created by Cassie back when she was working as an undercover agent. Her former boss in the undercover unit decides to send Cassie back to the home she shared with four housemates and see if she can ferret out the murderer by pretending to be Lexie.

The roommates, who think that Lexie was in a coma, are Bright Young Things, living a hermetically sealed, intellectually and aesthetically stimulating life inside Daniel’s family’s estate home. They’re the kind of glittering coterie that has appeared in books like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Danny Boyle’s excellent film Shallow Grave. Cassie is instantly seduced–both by the closeness she finds among the housemates, and by Lexie herself, whose bright exterior masked a rabbit’s warren of dark secrets.

The Likeness was a riveting read. I found myself stealing every available minute for it–dishes piling up, bathroom growing fuzzier by the minute, with Superfast Toddler mercifully cooperating by giving me some very long naps. I was as much in suspense over Cassie’s impending breakdown as I was with the identity of the murderer. French previously limned Cassie’s friendship with former partner Rob in such heartrending detail that I felt like their chaos was happening to me. Here, she builds a web of friendship that conjures up what my friend Megan calls pre-nostalgia–where you anticipate feeling nostalgic while something is unfolding, where the ache is part of the pleasure. More than just bittersweet, pre-nostalgia is self-inflicted yet inevitable. Just like Lexie’s death.

Oh, and The Likeness features an outstandingly poignant last paragraph that will mean nothing unless you read the whole book first. Don’t spoil it for yourself!

3 thoughts on “The Likeness by Tana French”

  1. That is exactly how I felt when I read this book! Even when I was hanging out and having a good time with friends, I always had The Likeness playing at the back of my mind and urging me to come home and read it! So wonderful.

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