The Likeness

The Fiction Addiction

The premise of Tana French's The Likeness is almost too unbelievable: A murder victim is found who looks exactly like undercover investigator Cassie Maddox. It's a bit of a stretch, but the wild premise works because the characters all know it's just so insanely unlikely. The cops are all constantly aware that this likeness is a huge, almost miraculous break to solve the case, and it's something no one has ever been able to do before. It's this curiosity that compels Cassie and the other investigators, and this pulls the reader too. Someone, somewhere thinks they've murdered Lexie, and that person is going to see "Lexie" walking around like nothing's happened... 

I borrowed The Likeness from a friend who'd read it, loved it, and promised me it would be suspenseful and not too gory.  The location of the body and the damage Lexie sustained were important clues, and I didn't, you know, enjoy reading that part, but my friend was right, it wasn't too gross. 

So much of the tension in this novel comes from how freaking idyllic the share house is. Lexie, before her tragic death, lived in a dreamily shabby mansion with four other grad student friends. The five spend their days in a vintage, academic daydream and Cassie, as "Lexie," slips right in to try to uncover Lexie's last days. Cassie eats home-cooked meals with the housemates, drinks wine, teaches easy tutorials, and reads for Lexie's thesis. The five friends share everything, as they relax at home together and pursue their academic work, although there's the constant worry that Cassie will be found out, and the unsettling possibility that Lexie's murderer is actually one of the housemates. 

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"Lexie' is very sus[/caption]

Most of the information Cassie has gotten in order to impersonate Lexie comes from questions that Frank, Cassie's mentor, has asked the housemates about while pretending to investigate Lexie's accident. Well, I mean, he really is a detective, he really is investigating what happened to Lexie, he just isn't telling the housemates that questions about Lexie's habits are more about bringing in an imposter than about establishing Lexie's movements on they day on the murder. This kind of layered half-truth is the heart of this book. So many scenes had someone giving a semi-truthful, semi-complete answer, and letting others assume (and it wasn't always Cassie, not nearly) and draw conclusions. 

Without too many spoilers, since discovering Lexie's past is key to enjoying The Likeness, I have to say how much I liked Lexie's academic story. When she discovers that her face-twin has a solid undergrad record somewhere, she spins those records into a PhD place for herself. That blend of autodidact with her ability to manipulate and take full advantage was fascinating, and like Cassie, I just had to know how Lexie ended up in the shared mansion, and then ended up dead.

I have to admit I didn't quite buy the love story subplot. I didn't feel like Cassie and Sam had an actual relationship, since we didn't really get to see them having chemistry or much of a good time together, before she spent most of the book ignoring him and his thoughts/concerns/feelings. Or maybe it's me, I think I'm aging out of the grand-gesture book boyfriend, I prefer to see a couple actually being kind and thoughtful. It's also possible that I need the other books in the series to really see the romance.  Still, there are more than enough complicated and compelling relationships, both in the share house and in the precinct, to carry the story along.

Overall, this was a tense story of murder and undercover investigation with complex motives on all sides. It wasn't gory, just as promised, but still had a couple dark twists.

Fans of this story may also enjoy the tense investigation in Lightseekers or the tense identities in Who Who Maud Dixon?

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