Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: The Likeness by Tana French

Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She's transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, but she's too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl's ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective) and she looks exactly like Cassie...

Pages: 466
Author: Tana French
Add It: Goodreads
Series: Dublin Murder Squad (#2)
Publisher: Viking Adult

While I am still working on the fourth book in this series I can safely say, without a doubt, that this is my favorite book of the four thus far. It's hard to say what calls to me here. It could be the way I relate to Cassie and all of her darkest wants and needs. It could be the creaky old house that is reminiscent of so many great gothic settings that have come before. It could be the overarching theme that all anyone truly wants is to belong and to spend every waking moment feeling wine in their bones, bare arms swirling in the cool moonlight, the safety of a homemade family, and a kiss on their lips after midnight... preferably by someone who is not the stoic homicidal maniac that they appear to be. This book is intoxicating with its freedoms and dreams.


Before the story gets interesting, things start off by focusing a bit on Cassie and Sam to allow us to see how their relationship has grown since the events of In the Woods. Sure, Sam is about as interesting as a golden retriever* (so far anyway, where's his book that details all of his mental shortcomings, French?) but I am not in the camp that believes Rob and Cassie should have ended up together at the end of In the Woods. Sure, Rob's phone call to Cassie was heartbreaking, but I hoped that she really did leave the phone on for vengeance because I am kind of a vindictive bitch when scorned, and it pleases me to see my fictional counterparts doing the same and standing up for themselves. Maybe Rob and Cassie are meant to be (whatever that means), but perhaps not now, and I think that's ok. Rob treated Cassie poorly and abused the connection that they had. He has no one to blame but himself and it's certainly not Sam's fault for falling in love with her and treating her better. I read in an interview of French's that she has considered going back to Rob and Cassie's story some day, and that suits me just fine. I think it makes sense that Rob might get a better grip on his demons, Cassie might get a better grip on hers, and those crazy kids might just work it out yet. Patience, doves.

"And God the taste of undercover on my tongue again, the brush of it down the little hairs on my arms. I'd thought I remembered what it was like, every detail, but I'd been wrong: memories are nothing, soft as gauze against the ruthless razor-fineness of that edge, beautiful and lethal, one tiny slip and it'll slice to the bone."

Have you ever wanted to step into the shoes of someone else's life and just stop being you for awhile? Then the basic set up here will appeal to you. The set up will also appeal to you if you've ever dreamed of giving up your routine job and living in a house with peace-loving-manic-pixie-hippies. Is that a dream that anyone has? I bet it is, and you just don't know it, because I have to say I was jealous of the life that Cassie got to live undercover. As jealous as she was of Lexie. I also don't care if the plot that led her there is entirely implausible and something that would never happen because this isn't The Twilight Zone. This is fiction. I also don't believe a wizard named Dumbledore with a long beard is going to be knocking down my door to invite me to a secret wizarding school in England** but that's never stopped me from falling in love.

"In all my life I had seldom wanted anything as wildly as I wanted to be in there, get this gun and this phone off me, drink and dance until a fuse blew in my brain and there was nothing left in the world except the music and the blaze of lights and the four of them surrounding me, laughing, dazzling, untouchable."

You see that sentence there? I've never felt more put on paper. I know that feeling, and this is why Tana French's writing is so good. It feels like you're reading about yourself. I mean, granted, that's probably only if you're like me and partially mentally unstable, but be honest, you are, aren't you? I also know the feeling of a friendship so close and co-dependent that at its best it's the most wonderful feeling in the world because it feels like home, and at its worst it's murderous and leaking poison until it blurs your entire world. The writing and the characters are painfully raw and honest, and French is very good at making us all question our basic morals and beliefs. I would go so far as to say that this book was the most beautifully written of her Dublin Murder Squad collection. The mystery was subtle and the only one of the first three books where I can honestly say I didn't know how it would end. I would say that even if you didn't like or love In the Woods you should give this book a shot before writing off French completely. She may just surprise you yet.

*But Golden retrievers are fucking awesome, ok, those muther fuckers are so devoted to fetch they deserve a medal.
** Yes, I actually do believe that, and your attempts to disillusion me will be met with disgust and derision.


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