Friday, December 2, 2011

The Likeness

The Likeness
by Tana French, Viking Adult, July 2008

...great characters and sense of place, weak plot!

The Likeness is the second Tana French mystery set within the Murder Squad in Dublin. I had previously read the first (Into the Woods) and the third (A Faithful Place). Each story is only loosely connected to the other and can be read in any order. French’s characters are the antithesis of hard boiled detectives. We come to intimately know her detectives. Her writing style is emotional and she has the ability to craft a real psychological thriller. In The Likeness, the narrator and main character is Cassie Maddox, a Dublin detective who has worked undercover in the past. When a girl (Lexie) is murdered who looks identical to Maddox, the police decide to withhold news of the murder and recruit Maddox to take the murdered girl’s place. In the undercover role Maddox works herself successfully into the house where four house mates live. The author is able to make this strange group of doctoral students alive and likeable. The emotional tension in the story increases as Maddox steps further into the life of Lexie and her housemates as she investigates the murder.

There were things I loved about this story – French’s ability to create realistic, likeable people and places, the authentic feel you get about the relationships among the characters, and the really wonderful prose that this author can produce. But this story hit my tipping point for improbable events. You are asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast – that friends as close as this group were would not detect an imposter, that Maddox would withhold important information relevant to the case from her supervisor, that an iterant traveler such as Lexie could waltz into a doctoral program and be successful. Ok maybe that’s only three things but for me they were very distracting.

In summary – great characters and sense of place, weak plot!

I read a copy of this book borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia.


Marce said...

I have made a goal to read her works next year but want to start in order. The Likeness seems to be a favourite - your review reminds me of AGatha Christie's And Then There Were None in a way.

I love the sound of the characters.

Anonymous said...

I can see how the plot could be viewed as implausible. I was so captivated by the story though that I didn't pay attention to that. This reminded me a lot of The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. However, while I loved this one, I think Faithful Place would have to be my favorite Tana French book!

Zibilee said...

I am glad to see this review because I feel that there has been so much hype for these books that it borders on mania, and I really needed to hear a dissenting opinion by someone that I trust. Thanks for this review and for being so honest about what did and didn't work for you in this one. I feel like I can now go into these with my eyes open.

Carole said...

I really enjoyed this story- in spite of the story line. Something about the characters really sucked me in - and I actually liked all of the suspects.

Although the plot was implausible, it was not more so than most detective/mysteries I read ...LOL.