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The Likeness: A Novel Hardcover – July 17, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 921 customer reviews
Book 2 of 5 in the Dublin Murder Squad Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* French’s debut novel, In the Woods (2007), introduced Dublin Murder Squad detective Cassie Maddox and earned unanimous critical praise. Cassie is back, and French has written another winner. The body of a young woman is found in the ruins of a old stone cottage in a dying village outside of Dublin, and the dead woman and Cassie are virtual twins. Lacking suspects or leads, the victim is reported by the police to be injured but alive, leaving Cassie to step into the dead woman’s life as a Trinity College graduate student and the housemate of four other students. Despite the tensions of being undercover, Cassie quickly learns to love her quirky, insular housemates and her new life in a once-grand house, even as the Murder Squad investigation yields little. Someone stabbed her doppelganger to death, and Cassie must find the killer. The Likeness has everything: memorable characters, crisp dialogue, shrewd psychological insight, mounting tension, a palpable sense of place, and wonderfully evocative, painterly prose. In the Woods was an Edgar Award finalist; this one just might go one step further. --Thomas Gaughan

Review

French's second foray into the dark world of psychological crime more than proves she's the real deal Daily Mirror An intricate and edgy top-notch psychological thriller. Woman and Home Beautifully written and elegantly descriptive, this is a true literary detective novel rather than a whodunnit Irish Mail on Sunday An eerie thriller, perfect for holidays Sunday World Creepily melding elements of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" ... THE LIKENESS by Tana French, seduces from the start ... A nifty tale of desire for belonging, as well as a cool thriller Time Out Skilfully written ... French has a brilliant ear for dialogue ... in the best tradition of classic crime writers, such as P D James and Ruth Rendell, her characters are fully-rounded people and she is able to layer plots and storylines with a mastery that belies the fact that it is only her second book. Sunday Independent, Dublin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018864
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (921 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There will be no spoilers in this review.

As in her first novel, In the Woods, Tana French has created another sensuous, lyrical, haunting, suspenseful story. Although it is considered a mystery, it is much much more than that. It is a story of identity in all its literal and metaphorical forms. It is a social commentary (but never sententious) and it is also about fear and flight and love.

Cassie Maddox and Sam O'Neill are detectives from In the Woods. Although Operation Vestal (from In the Woods) is mentioned several times, these books can be read in any sequence without ruining it for the reader. The setting is again Dublin, Ireland.

Cassie is the star attraction of this story as she goes undercover to live with four liberal arts doctoral candidates whose housemate, Lexie Madison, is found dead from a stabbing in an abandoned cottage. Lexie Madison looks exactly like Cassie, and the name is her last undercover alias, which adds to the mystery. The housemates will be told that she survived the stabbing.

It isn't necessary to give too many plot details. What is more important is the response from reading. This is a generous, gorgeous, thoughtful, poetic story. The tone is almost elegiac at times, especially during her descriptive paragraphs, and the author's use of the extended metaphor is prolific and often profound. At the end of the novel, I looked up hawthorn (the tree, flower, bush) on Wikipedia and had a chill run up and down my spine. Her descriptions, turns of phrase, elegant passages and graceful unfolding keep me fastened and fascinated. What I love about Tana French is that her novels are both character-driven AND plot-driven. She does not sacrifice one for the other. With most mysteries, I only read them once.
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Format: Hardcover
Likeness is one of those off-kilter books that you love to read because the prose is stunning, but which fails completely as a novel. In order for French's plot to work you have to believe: 1)that an undercover cop could pass herself off as another person to a group of people who knew her "double" intimately, 2)that a person can go from being a hat designer to a PhD student in one year (transcripts? application process? recommendations?),3) that grad school students act like 15-year-olds (well, OK maybe that's not so far off the mark),4) that a trained undercover cop would keep important evidence (the diary) from her superiors, etc. etc. etc. I simply did not buy any of it. There were problems with the writing as well. I found the trendy post-modern "quotes" (Star Trek, Alice's Restaurant) disruptive. And those endless ambiguous, interrupted conversations hinting at dark secrets got old after a while. I wanted some resolution. Even the relationships between the characters were unconvincing. Was Cassie actually supposed to be in love with Sam? Why did Cassie want to be Lexi? Why did the villagers care so deeply about a woman who had died almost a hundred years earlier? In short, the premise was implausible, the book was over-written, and the psychology shaky.
French is a fabulous writer. I'm hoping that her third novel will be a charm.
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Format: Hardcover
It's feckin' genius, that's what it is. I couldn't write a single sentence as well as Tana French if I started now and lived to be a thousand. And she wrote a whole book, two books, of them. Flawlessly. Word after word, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, until the book is as perfect as it could be. It boggles the mind, it really does.

The first time I picked up Raymond Chandler, I knew I was in the hands of something profound and mysterious. I haven't had that feeling again for many years, till In The Woods, and even more powerfully, The Likeness.

Here's an Australian sheep rancher, talking about his daughter:

"But when she was nine, her mother had hemmorhaged, ...and bled out before a doctor could get there. 'Gracie was too young to hear that,' he said. '...I knew as soon as I told her. The look in her eyes: she was too young to hear it. It cracked her straight across.'"

"It cracked her straight across". That's the power of metaphor in the hands of a master. It conveys in a way that touches the heart what exactly happened, in the same way that Shakespeare would use metaphor and words.

It's a privilege to read Tana French, it really is. I feel only pity for the person who wrote of the unbelievable plot, I do. This book isn't about a plot, just as Chandler wasn't about plot, just as we don't read Shakespeare for the plot. Anyone can do plot; but to give feeling and life, undoubted life, to characters on paper, that is to marvel at.
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Format: Hardcover
The premise of The Likeness--Detective Cassie Maddox (heroine of French's memorable debut novel, the Edgar-winning In the Woods) assumes the identity of a lookalike murder victim who herself assumed an undercover identity Maddox abandoned years before--certainly sounds absurd on the surface, but the author makes it work, and makes it work well. Once Cassie's (and through her, the reader's) logical objections to the scheme are overcome, French proceeds to deliver a masterwork of suspense, dropping her heroine into a dangerous, emotionally charged situation, where she is constantly aware that any or all of the people she's trying to deceive may wish her dead. The fact that the novel is written in the first person makes it all the more intense.
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