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)