Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Likeness by Tana French

This book is very intense, very suspenseful, and engrossing. The plot is complicated, the characters convincingly real, and the dialogue is great. While not perfect, it was the perfect thing for a long holiday week. I stayed up late reading a couple of nights in a row, and spent a lot of time hiding out reading it while others watched football and YouTube.

Maxine at EuroCrime liked it too, though her complaints are similar to mine. She calls it a fine little 250 page mystery that is 550 pages long, and she is right. French often uses three sentences when one would do. But for some reason it didn’t bother me the way it did Maxine, and I just cruised along enjoying every bit of it. It’s very atmospheric and French’s over-the-top descriptions add a sense of other-worldliness to the whole package.

If you want a detailed plot summary, read Maxine’s review. Very briefly, it’s about a police officer (Cassie) who takes an undercover assignment investigating the murder of a young woman (Lexie) who strongly resembled Cassie, and who was using an alias that Cassie had used herself in a previous undercover assignment. It’s got multiple layers of mystery (Who killed Lexie? Why does she look like Cassie? Why is she using Cassie’s undercover name? Who is she really?) and a complicated setup where Cassie must integrate herself into Lexie’s social circle to discover the murderer’s identity.

Like Maxine, I was reminded of the Barbara Vine book A Fatal Inversion. That is probably a better book than The Likeness, and if you are looking for a pitch perfect psychological thriller you can do no better than that. But The Likeness was good too, and it’s only French’s second novel, while the Vine book is probably something like Vine’s 30th (including her work as Ruth Rendell). French is also the author of In the Woods which is currently a paperback bestseller. I am less interested in that because it seems to be about child murders, a subject that I avoid.

(Book 47, 2008)

3 comments:

Christopher said...

I see this is only book #47 this year so far. Thus you have five books to go before Thursday.

Will you be burning the midnight oil till then!!?

Becky said...

Christopher, I know! What am I going to do? I think I can get one more read, but not five!

maxine said...

Yes, pity you did not like the Camilleris as they would not have taken long!
Thanks for the kind comments about my review. I think my problem is that I read too many very high quality books in this genre this year (mainly from Scandinavia) so my expectations were set too high.

I have just read another book on a similar theme to The Likeness and A Fatal Inversion: Half Broken Things by Morag Joss. I discovered it via Martin Edwards's blog (Do you write under your own name?). It is quite good, I think - unpretentious and much more of a 250 word novel not as overheated as The Likeness. There are plot flaws, but more readily forgiveable as the book did not keep on actively trying to build up the suspense, but rather just got on with it.

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