Posts tagged ‘Dublin’

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

“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.

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January 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm 3 comments

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn – “In the Woods” by Tana French

Cover of "In the Woods"

Cover of In the Woods

In the Woodsby Tana French, Published 2007

I loved this book.
Seriously,  stop what you are reading or pause your DVR or quit your job or after being incredibly responsible reward yourself and read this book.    In the arena of suspense novels it is one of the best I have read – no, I am not kidding.

It begins with a story about three children who, in 1984, disappear into the woods right outside of Dublin, Ireland. Only one child was ever found:

“…a policeman with a torch found Adam Ryan in a densely wooded area near the center of the wood, standing with his back and palms pressed against a large oak tree. His fingernails were digging into the trunk so deeply that they had not broken off in the bark.”

The reader then finds out that this kid, only all grown up and a murder detective, is the narrator.  Detective Ryan can remember nothing- not what happened to his friends, not how his socks were filled with blood, and not, perhaps most importantly, why he survived. And instead of memory, he is forever left with the guilt of surviving.

But he finds himself with a new murder mystery to solve, twenty years later, in the same woods.  A young girl, Katy Devlin, is found strangled in the field that is left where the woods have in part been removed.  Ryan is stuck trying to solve this new murder, determine whether there is a connection between the two incidents, while desperately trying to remember what happened twenty years ago.  It is an amazing balancing act, that crumbles very quickly. And that folks, is all I can share about this book. I feel that if I share more, it will be too much.  I will say that Ryan warns you from the beginning that he is not a reliable narrator:

“What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception.”

The ending is not what you want but as a reader you quickly realize that French really gave you the only ending that works. And though it is not Scarlett and Rhett living happily ever after (which after 4 hours of film should have happened), it is indeed what you knew all along would happen or at least what you suspected would happen.  But you don’t feel cheated, you just feel resigned.  And that is some amazing writing.

November 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm 7 comments


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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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