You can’t win them all – “The Likeness” by Tana French

January 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm 3 comments

“The Likeness” by Tana French – Published in 2008 

I have read three books by Tana French.  I loved “In the Woods”  and really enjoyed “Faithful Place.” “The Likeness” was fun but it was kind of a disappointment compared to the other two books.  But that is in comparison – standing on its own “The Likeness” is still worth the read.

Cover of "The Likeness: A Novel"

Cover of The Likeness: A Novel

“The Likeness” picks up with Detective Cassie Maddox about 6 months after the end of “In the Woods.”A woman is found murdered in a small country town outside of Dublin.  The dead woman not only looks exactly like Cassie (yes, suspend your disbelief ladies and gentlemen) but she has been using an undercover name Cassie had created previously for another undercover case.  The murder squad realizes this is a perfect undercover opportunity for Cassie, to pretend that Lexie, the murder victim, didn’t die but was just injured. By living Lexie’s life, Cassie can try to find the murderer (again suspending disbelief, people).   Cassie moves into Lexie’s home that she shares with five other graduate students, Abby, Raf, Daniel and Justin.  They live in a country manor, a fix-her-upper, spending their days at Trinity College studying and teach – and they spend their nights making large dinners, reading literature, and playing the piano. They accept the injured and shaken Lexie, undercover Cassie, back into the fold seemingly fooled by the switch.

It is not a bad undercover job for Cassie who has always kept herself emotionally removed in her own life.  Cassie finds herself entranced by her four roommates and the life they lead.  She finds herself beginning to connect with Lexie’s life and even her hidden identity.  She falls in love with all of her roommates. Abby’s strong but sweet demeanor, Raf’s rich kid loneliness, Justin’s festivity and even Daniel’s quirky behaviour. This begins to compromise her investigation while at the same time brings her in touch with the losses she experienced in the investigation from “In the Woods.”  What she has been avoiding, she must finally face.

The mystery of Lexie’s death is somewhat interesting. But like Cassie, as the reader, I found myself much more interested in the life of all of the roommates than the mystery itself.  French may have done this on purpose, so you understand how Cassie could make the choices that she makes to compromise her investigation. Though ultimately I think it plays poorly when the mystery is finally solved because as the reader I am not sure you care anymore about who did it.

All in all, this book was a fun, quick read. It is not my favorite of French’s writing but even at her worst  Tana French gives most suspense novelists a run for their money.  So being the worst book of some of the best is not such a bad thing.


Entry filed under: January 2012 reads. Tags: , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nella  |  January 9, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I don’t often read suspense/thriller novels, but there’s nothing I like more than whizzing through one on a wet weekend and not having to think too hard. This one sounds good for that. Thanks for the review.

    • 2. Emily C  |  January 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      I am sure sometime this winter will work perfectly for reading this book (lots of dreary weekends ahead). I hope you enjoy it.

  • […] French is one of my favorite modern suspense novelists.  Her books (“In the Woods,” “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place”) leave you with that spine-tingling, hair-standing-on-end kind of […]


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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