All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Likeness – Tana French

on June 2, 2010

After finishing In The Woods I was hoping that The Likeness might help me gain a little bit of closure. But closure, it seems, is not Tana French’s forte or particular preference. But that doesn’t mean that I loved this book any less than I loved her first one.

The Likeness picks up not too long after In The Woods leaves off, with Cassie, the secondary character of the first novel moved to first person protagonist in this one. After the repercussions of Operation Vestal from the previous book, she has transferred out of the Murder Squad to Domestic Violence. Her boyfriend is still on Murder Squad and he calls her frantically one morning, asking her to come to a crime scene.

The victim is a female that looks like Cassie’s double and who is using Cassie’s old undercover identity when she was posing as a college student to bust open a drug ring. Cassie’s old undercover boss is on the scene as well, wanting to draw Cassie back into undercover to find out what happened to this girl and how she came to be using the identity he and Cassie created and that he registered for Cassie to go undercover. From the outset, although Cassie appears reluctant, it’s always clear she’s going to do the job. The victim, using the name Lexie Madison was living in a very old stately home with 4 other PhD students, all extremely intelligent, all a bit shifty, all considered suspects. Cassie spends a week or so learning to be Lexie using footage of video taken from her mobile phone while the house mates think Lexie survived her stabbing and is just in a coma, whereabouts unknown for the purposes of her safety. To cover their butts, they give Lexie a bit of random recent-event amnesia so that she can’t remember who stabbed her. Just in case it was one of her house mates and they expect her to come all flying back in pissed as hell that one of them you know, stabbed her. And left her to die.

The house mates. They’re an interesting lot. They’re portrayed as One Against The World really, that they have this incredibly intimate relationship, seamless with no cracks. However Cassie spots cracks in about three seconds and starts trying to apply pressure on the cracks and seeing what leaks out. The answer is, not much. And then a whole lot. Meanwhile her boss from undercover is chilling, listening in on everything that’s going on (Cassie is wired) and researching The Girl Formerly Known As Lexie Madison (the dead one, not Cassie). Turns out TGFKALM has a history of stealing people’s identity’s, living as them for a while and then up and disappearing in the middle of the night. That leads to a massive red herring  secondary plot about whether or not someone from her past is chasing her, forcing her to change her identity frequently and abscond to faraway countries. Her boyfriend is just a whiny presence at the other end of the phone most of the time, telling her not to do this, come home, don’t do that, be careful, I don’t like this, etc. I can’t actually buy them as a couple throughout any of the book. He was a minor character in In The Woods and isn’t any more prevalent in this book. I know that romantic relationships don’t seem to be the primary focus of French, she seems to emphasize more heavily the mystery and relationships other than the romantic sort, but the dynamic between them is a little too distant to make them anything other than blah as a couple.

Oh yes…’Lexie Madison’ was pregnant when she died. So Cassie also has to attempt to try and find out who the father is without asking anyone questions like “Sooo…did we have sex before I was stabbed and in a coma? No? Awkward!” So she doesn’t do that at all. Instead she mostly ignores it for like, the whole time! Instead she spends way too much time actually liking these weirdo house mates and all falling in love with them and starting to wish she was Lexie and could stay there forever and not come back out of undercover. And you will sort of understand it because the house mates are very awesome in the way that they are actually, very horrible. And one of them is possibly a murderer.

And if, like me, you wondered about Rob Ryan, from In The Woods, well then, keep wondering. Because although Cassie dials his number to talk to him, she hangs up when he answers. And although she mentions him several times, missing him, thinking about him, he never actually appears in this book. And maybe that’s a good thing, because his story is done. But I do wish that those two crazy kids would start talking again. And then maybe Cassie could get rid of her boring Murder Squad boyfriend. Because he doesn’t do anything for me at all, and I sincerely hope that 2-3 books down the track, French doesn’t decide to spin him out as a main character.

As with the first book, French’s writing just hooks me write in. I love it beyond description. I love the way she creates characters and situations and how she can make me not be able to turn pages fast enough, with my heart in my mouth. Even though this one is not as tense, there are so many moments that are totally edge-of-seat. And even though the books don’t always give me what I want, I find myself liking the alternative so much more.

Also 8/10 for this one.

PS> Just a personal nitpick – at the end, Cassie talks to a character from Australia, who mentions that someone took off with “a couple hundred quid”. No one from Australia, especially not a bush farmer from remote WA, would ever say that. We haven’t had pounds since about 1966 and even my grandparents, who are 80-ish, don’t say quid. A real Australian would’ve said they took off with a “couple hundred bucks”. I just felt like an editor should’ve picked up on that, because it’s not a hard thing to verify. I find it as implausible as someone from the US using “quid” as slang.

(Book #27 of my 50 Book Challenge)


4 responses to “The Likeness – Tana French

  1. […] According to the little scale I’m already at Shamrock level – 2 books! In The Woods and The Likeness by Tana French are both set in Ireland and meet the requirements of the challenge. I’d love […]

  2. Carrie K. says:

    I liked this one a lot more than In the Woods, but someone had already warned me that Rob isn’t a character. And from what I can tell about book 3 – due out later this year – the main character is Frank Mackey, from undercover.

  3. Yeah, I’ve heard that too! I guess we are NEVER going to find out what happened to Rob, lol. I’d love to see him turn up again one day down the track though.

  4. […] The Likeness by Tana French. I bought and read the first 2 together, from the 3 for 2 table at Borders. Remember them? They came here in around 2008 or so and opened a bunch of huge stores. And then collapsed a few years later. But I loved them while they were here! […]

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