The Likeness – Tana French

Title: The Likeness
Author: Tana French
ISBN: 0670018864
Pages: 480
Release Date: July 17, 2008
Genre: Mystery
Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)

From the dust jacket:

Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still recovering. Transferred out of Dublin’s Murder squad at her own request, she vows never to return. That is, until her boyfriend, Detective Sam O’Neill calls her one beautiful spring morning, urgently asking her to come to a murder scene in the small town of Glenskehy.

It isn’t until Cassie sees the body that she understands Sam’s insistence. The dead girl is Cassie’s double and she carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie herself used years ago when she was working undercover. The question becomes not only who killed this girl, but who was this girl.

Frank Mackey, Cassie’s former undercover boss, sees the opportunity of a lifetime. Having played Lexie Madison once before, Cassie is in the perfect position to take her place. The police will tell the media and Lexie’s four housemates that the stab wound wasn’t fatal. And Cassie will go on living Lexie’s life until the killer is lured out to finish off the job.

I really enjoyed In the Woods [review], so when I heard that Tana French had a new book out, I was really excited. In the Woods left such an open ending – I was eager to pick up the story where it had left off.

Well, that’s not quite how The Likeness worked. If you want to read The Likeness simply because you want an answer to the ambiguous ending of In the Woods, don’t bother picking it up. While it is a continuation of Cassie’s story, and there are numerous references in it to IIn the Woods, it does not solve the mystery from its prequel. It is helpful to have read In the Woods first because the events in that book are referenced numerous times, but Cassie’s story stands on its own.

That being said, The Likeness is an amazing book that I believe surpassed its predecessor in every way. While the writing quality is just as wonderful, the story was absolutely enthralling. It is very different, but I can’t put my finger on why. I would say that The Likeness is intensely psychological, except so was In the Woods, just in a different way. Perhaps it is that in the first novel, we witness the book through Detective Ryan’s eyes as he slowly has a nervous breakdown; it is an exploration of the human psyche and the depths of childhood trauma. The Likeness, on the other hand, takes us into Cassie’s head, which is much clearer. It is a poetic exploration of friendship and love, of truth and lies. This is a poor description, and I can’t explain it – all I can say is that the book reminded me of The Secret History by Donna Tartt (except it might have been even better!)

I also loved the character of Cassie. French wrote her incredibly well – she is very likeable, but has her own issues on the inside. The writing is beautiful as well. I think the sheer suspense ofIn the Woods may have overshadowed the wonderful qualities of French’s writing. They are much more apparent in the slower pace of The Likeness.

In short, The Likeness is a wonderful novel that I highly recommend. It isn’t as suspenseful as In the Woods but it has a quality of its own and I couldn’t put it down.


  1. I am really looking forward to reading both this and In the Woods. My boss is borrowing my copy of Likeness as I right this and is enjoying it quite a bit. Great review!

  2. Hmmmm…that really is weird, don’t ya think? I mean, if the ending left the reader with questions, wouldn’t you think that’s where book II would pick up?

  3. I agree with J.Kaye, don’t you think they would have addressed things left unsaid in the first novel in the sequel? Either way, great review. You make me want to pick up both books for myself.

  4. I have both of these and will get to them eventually, You’re review is great and makes me want to get to them even faster:)

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