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In this follow-up to Tana French’s runaway bestseller In the Woods, itʼs six months later and Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder Squad with no plans to go back—until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used as an undercover cop. Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more important, who was this girl?

466 pages, Hardcover

First published July 17, 2008

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About the author

Tana French

21 books23.8k followers
Tana French is the New York Times bestselling author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser and The Witch Elm. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry Awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,886 reviews
January 26, 2016
I’ll never be free of her. I wear her face; as I get older it’ll stay her changing mirror, the one glimpse of all the ages she never had. I lived her life, for a few strange bright weeks; her blood went into making me what I am, the same way it went to make the bluebells and the hawthorn tree
Some books hurt. They squeeze your chest, they make your eyes sting with unshed tears. It's a rare author who is able to evoke that kind of emotion in their readers, and I can only say that reading Tana French always brings a stab of exquisite pain to my heart.

It's ridiculous, really. It's so incredible. She is one of my favorite authors, and for me, there's just no words for how stupidly wonderful I find her books, because I have not the talent with words that she has. I can't adequately sum up my emotions for her books except to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I love them, utterly.

I have the shortest attention span with books. I read them once. I enjoy them, or not. I forget about them. Re-reading anything is a rare, rare, rarer than once-in-a-blue-moon event with me, and yet I've found myself going back to her books time and time again. Exquisite. I can't describe it as anything less than that.

Like Rob Ryan in the previous book in this series, our main character, Cassie Maddox is broken. Broken, damaged characters within literature are a dime a dozen. It is up to the skill of the author to make them truly believable, and I fell in love with Cassie as I did with Rob. She feels like a sister, someone I want to hold and protect against the harshness of the world. Like Rob, Cassie has a darkness inside her that made her former position with the Undercover squad so exhilarating.
Some people are undercovers all the way to the bone; the job has taken them whole.

I was never afraid of getting killed and I was never afraid of losing my nerve. My kind of courage holds up best under fire; it’s different dangers, more refined and insidious ones, that shake me. But the other things: I worried about those. Frank told me once—and I don’t know whether he’s right or not, and I didn’t tell Sam this either—that all the best undercovers have a dark thread woven into them, somewhere.
This book is about Cassie. Yes, we get a few brief mentions of Rob, but he is not the focus. This is a good thing, because it shows that Cassie is strong, she is able to move on, and this, after all, is her story.

They say that everyone has a double, somewhere; Cassie may have found hers, only that twin is dead. Her former boss, Frank, with his rather sadistic and unconventional streak, wants Cassie to go undercover as the dead girl. Infiltrate an impenetrable group of friends - and the thrill, the need for an answer is too much temptation for our girl. She goes into it with trepidation, excitement.

And beyond all expectations, Cassie finds so much more than a mystery to be solved.
It was as if none of the jagged edges had ever existed; it was close and warm and shining as that first week again, only better, a hundred times better, because this time I wasn’t on the alert and fighting to get my bearings and stay in place. This time I knew them all by heart, their rhythms, their quirks, their inflections, I knew how to fit in with every one; this time I belonged.
This is a story about love. About the love of friendship and family, arguably more important than romantic love itself. Anyone who has never felt like they belonged will know this feeling, that there's nothing like the feeling of finding your place among others, and that's what Cassie finds here.

I know I am doing a shit job of describing the book. There is just so much depth to it that I am out of my depths trying to describe it. Just please, please, read this and judge for yourself.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
September 5, 2020
There are times when trying on someone else's life for size seems like a very tempting idea. But how do you not lose yourself in it?



This book shredded my heart into tiny little pieces.

It made me reexperience that hollow, empty, lonely, lost feeling you have when you remember the intense and seemingly 'forever' friendships that have somehow, inexplicably just disintegrated.

It made me miss people who once were crucial in my life - and are not there any more, for one reason or another. And I miss them.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Stephen King, another author who is excellent at depicting real friendship:
"Maybe there aren't any such things as good friends or bad friends - maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you're hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they're always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that's what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart."


The Likeness is the second book in the series by Tana French, focusing on Cassie Maddox, the partner of Detective Rob Ryan from her first book, In The Woods. It's a rather standalone work, however, despite being a part of a series. The only reason you should even read In The Woods before this one is to appreciate the intense friendship that Cassie once shared with Rob, and her emotional scars and utter emptiness in the aftermath of the death of their friendship.
"I used to think I sewed us together at the edges with my own hands, pulled the stitches tight and I could unpick them any time I wanted. Now I think it always ran deeper than that and farther, underground; out of sight and way beyond my control."
This book is not about Rob; he is only here in Cassie's memories. It is about Cassie Maddox, the kickass Detective who in an attempt to pull herself together is on the verge of her own downward spiral, who in the attempt of recapturing of what she once had and creating something that she never had almost loses herself and everything that matters to her. Yes, just like In The Woods, The Likeness is less of a crime whodunit (honestly, there's no reason why you would not figure out the killer's identity halfway through the book) and much more of a psychological f*ckery story, the attempt to explore people's inner desires and inner darkness - and the consequences of that.
"I wanted to tell her that being loved is a talent too, that it takes as much guts and as much work as loving; that some people, for whatever reason, never learn the knack."
If you have a problem with an unbelievable premise, this book will frustrate you to no end. Luckily for me, I can easily accept the unbelievable setup (after all, one of my favorite writers is China Miéville - 'nuff said). Cassie Maddox needs to go Undercover - to impersonate a dead woman who, by a strange coincidence, happens to be Cassie's almost perfect mirror image, the titular Likeness. And she needs to do that in front of dead woman's friends - her surrogate family. Not to mention that the dead woman in question has herself been impersonating Cassie's long-forgotten undercover identity from the past. Still with me? Still willing to see what happens next? Then this book should be just fine for you.



Unbelievable premise or not, once Cassie gets into the middle of action... Actually, scratch that. The whole point is Cassie getting away from the action and smack into the middle of an unusually intense family-like friendship that seems so old-fashioned and tranquil and based on the defiance of the rules of this fast-paced commercialized world.
"Our entire society is based on discontent. People wanting more and more and more. Being constantly dissatisfied with their homes, their bodies, their décor, their clothes, everything – taking it for granted that that’s the whole point of life. Never to be satisfied. If you are perfectly happy with what you got, especially if what you got isn’t even all the spectacular then you’re dangerous. You’re breaking all the rules. You’re undermining the sacred economy. You’re challenging every assumption that society is built on."


Daniel, Abby, Justin and Rafe. And Lexie/Cassie - still broken over Rob. This environment becomes seductive. It is beautiful - and yet with every page, right after seducing you into loving this quintet and giving them your heart, Tana French builds up a feeling of the inevitable doom of all of this, of the darkness lurking right under the surface, of the fleeting nature of everything that Cassie comes to hold dear in this new life. And this hurts - hurts a lot since French is so excellent at making you really CARE about her characters.
"Regardless of the advertising campaigns may tell us, we can't have it all. Sacrifice is not an option, or an anachronism; it's a fact of life. We all cut off our own limbs to burn on some altar. The crucial thing is to choose an altar that's worth it and a limb you can accept losing. To go consenting to the sacrifice."
Cassie Maddox is a lovely character. Hurt and broken, ready to latch onto something that has a promise of life and hope for her - and yet fiercely strong, independent and very capable. This is a woman who is shown to value true friendship and know love that is not exclusively romantic (unlike so many female protagonists in modern literature). She is a person who I'd be honored to be friends with, who I'd love to spend my evenings with, sipping wine and swapping stories (I'd skip on chain-smoking, however - just reading about the never-ending unfiltered cigarettes smoking makes me want to cough and get a chest x-ray to look for lung cancer).
"This much is mine, though: everything I did[...] Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons."

"I would've decided exactly the same way if you'd been standing right here," I said. "I'm a big girl, Sam. I don't need protecting.
"


This is how I kept imagining the house they all lived in - the cross between these two.

And Ireland - I love French's portrayal of Ireland, allowing me to feel like I actually know something about this country, allowing me to feel a bit of its spirit and heart, both good and bad aspects of it. The little mentions of Irish women having to take the ship to England if they wanted an abortion for instance - I actually had no idea, and this threw in a little reality check on my newly developed love for Irish landscapes. Or the frequent allusions to the consequences of the economic boom - the unaffordable housing, the dead-end jobs, the worship of money - all thrown in the middle of the story, firmly grounding it in the 'real world' - the concept that some of the characters of this story do have an issue with. This portrayal of Ireland, the setting of the scene for the story is so nicely achieved, creating an immersing atmosphere, and I applaud French for job well-done.

Tana French paints a vivid and beautiful scenery in this book. She creates moods that are almost palpable, dripping with life. She may be a bit wordy at times - but somehow that does not seem excessive. And her characterization is just superb, in my humbled opinion.
"I wanted to tell her that being loved is a talent too, that it takes as much guts and as much work as loving; that some people, for whatever reason, never learn the knack."
I loved this book even though it has stolen quite a few hours of sleep from me. I loved everything about it, even the sadness it made me feel at the end. I will miss it, and it will stay with me for quite a long time. 5 stars.
---------------
And here is my review for the first book in the series, In the Woods.
The third book in the series, Faithful Place, is reviewed here. And you can find the review for Broken Harbour, the fourth book in the series, right here. My review of the fifth book, The Secret Place, is here. My review (4 years late) of the sixth, The Trespasser, is here.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
May 17, 2015
This is the second Tana French novel I've read in just over a week and I have to say I'm rapidly becoming a big fan. The Likeness is an excellent story that is about psychology at least as much as (if not more than) it is about a murder mystery. Like In The Woods, the book's greatest weakness is also perhaps its greatest strength: the comprehensive portrait of the characters and their personalities.

French makes certain you know your narrator almost as well as you know yourself. Their habits, fears, background, influences and desires are gradually laid out before you as the story progresses. And despite some of the far-fetched plot elements, Cassie Maddox and her life seemed very real to me. But it's not just the main character who gets such treatment - French builds up a detailed personality for everyone she introduces to make them seem like not just an accessory to the plot, but a person with thoughts, feelings and a past. It's a technique carried out by a number of authors to varying degrees of success but French's novels are my personal favourite so far. It only becomes a weakness when the plot stalls so we can explore the characters and I'm longing to know where the mystery will go next.

The actual idea proposed by French here is rather ludicrous. A girl looking exactly like Detective Cassie Maddox turns up dead. And not only that, but the girl has assumed the fake identity which Cassie had played the part of a few years previously. Coincidences like this surely do not actually happen. Cassie then goes undercover as the girl - Lexie Madison - into the home she shares with four other students and attempts to find clues that will lead the police towards her killer. Somehow, however, it doesn't seem to matter that the idea is totally unbelievable, Cassie in herself is convincing enough to carry this story.

We are soon dragged into a The Secret History-type set-up where we are introduced to an isolated circle of intelligent and weird students. In my opinion, though, I found these characters and the story a lot more entertaining and realistic than those in The Secret History. Perhaps because their obsessions were with living simply and each other rather than a subject. It becomes clear straight away that something is not quite right in the house and that there are a number of secrets being kept. But does this mean one of them is the killer?

Again French shows the mental impact of an investigation on her characters. Cassie finds herself becoming increasingly involved on a very personal level and discovers just how hard it is to become someone without feeling a certain attachment to their life and friends. In the end, even Cassie's loyalties to the police force are tested - what if she could have what she's always wanted by being Lexie Madison? A family, people who love her, a sense of security... would she want to give that up and go back to the stresses of her job?

One last note: Sam. Look, you're adorable and everything and I really don't want to see you get hurt... but I'm holding out for Cassie and Rob. That's all I have to say to you. Please, Ms French?
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
June 21, 2018
okay, i enjoyed this tana french book much more than the first one. and against all odds; the premise of this book is so staggeringly unbelievable.check it out: so there's a murrrrrder, and the body is that of a young woman who looks just like detective cassie maddox! awesome! so why doesn't she just pretend to be the murdered girl, slip unnoticed into her life, and take it from there? because, dummy, her "life" is made up solely of a group of four other insular postgrad nerds who reside in a huge crumbling house together, and live only for each other without any boundary issues, and with the fiercely intense loyalty that's mostly only seen in the conjoined, and wouldn't they notice the difference?

but she's a really good undercover police detective, so...

i don't care, it works, it's fun. and it comes closer to secret history than most others claiming to be the same, but has the humility not to broadcast it on the jacket.

rewriting secret history has become a goal for suspense writers everywhere, and anytime anyone writes a book featuring intelligent young people who share secrets and there is a murder, the great donna tartt is invoked. and i remember really liking secret history, so i always read the impostors. this one, for all its necessary suspensions of disbelief, is not a bad comparison. in fact, this reminded me of the house at midnight, just in the characters' dynamics,and the house, of course, and that was one of the better "tartty" books i have read. there are huge logic gaps and "come on!" moments, but it is a quick read and she writes claustrophobic tension very well. i had some time to kill before work yesterday and was cold and poor, so i just took the 7 train alll the way out and then alll the way back to read this - it's completely engrossing, as long as you suppress your protests.

hiding out
just one of the guys
desperately seeking susan
tootsie
soul man
weekend at bernie's

in the 80's these secret-identity movies were ubiquitous. they all involved the seemingly implausible plot of being able to fool others into believing you were a different age, gender, race, or that you were, you know, alive.

and if we could believe it in the 80's we can believe it now. because let's face it, dustin hoffman wasn't fooling anyone.

i always thought that tana french would be more psychologically complicated literary fiction than a genre-book. blame it on the trade paperback format or the awards or the refined cover art; as opposed to the more cartoony norm:




(do not click to look inside)





(almost forgot about this one - it may be my favorite. i wish it was bigger (like all girls) because mrs. jeffries hiding is pretty funny/creepy)

but it's a mystery novel, pure and simple; suspects "confess" in long speeches, every glance can be analyzed and stripped of its meaning, detectives pull out all the interrogation clichés and there's nothing wrong with that, because it is good old fashioned leisure reading. and that's the genius of its presentation, and what i have learned from the identity-movies of the 80's. if this book ever witnessed a crime, it could just be put into witness protection program with the other trade paperbacks in the general fiction/literature section, and be more or less undetectable.

unless i was on the case...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
828 reviews3,675 followers
February 15, 2021


If Operation Mirror was a real thing, you would have to look out for the broken pieces on the floor. Because I would have smashed it.

Sigh. Have you ever felt like you weren't reading the same book as your - trusted, I might add - friends, that you don't get it? Because right now I do. Holy fuck I do.

And yet, I was so ready to love everything about The Likeness : In the Woods crushed me in the best way possible, the premise of this sequel, while rather ludicrous (shoot me, I don't believe for one second that someone could look so perfectly like me that she could fool my closed friends - call me arrogant, but Pl-ease), still awoke my interest and pretty much fascinated me... I thought I would love the shit out of this book. I thought I would dive in the third story instantly after finishing it. Ha. Not right now I won't. If you hear a crushing sound, it is more likely to be my expectations painfully dying than any sob coming from me. Why would I, when I felt nothing?



First of all, I still very much enjoyed Tana French's writing, most of the time at least. Sure, some of her descriptions made me itch to skim sometimes, but overall it was consistent with In the Woods : evocative and beautiful.

Moreover, as I said earlier, no matter how ridiculous and unbelievable the premise could be, I overlooked my problems with it and enjoyed it for what it was : a fascinating incursion into someone else's life. Tana French hooked me on this one, this I can't dismiss.

... And unfortunately, that's pretty much it.



The Likeness tried hard to be something it just wasn't. A psychological thriller. A character-driven journey. A dark diving into humans tricky mind.

Key word being : It tried. For me, it failed.

The problem is, if the premise was interesting, in my opinion the story wasn't near as developed as it could have been and my expectations were destroyed pretty fast. It was just so boring, okay? I'm not one for blaming a book for being character-driven, and many of my all-time favorites aren't action-packed. But for this kind of books to work, I need to feel something for the characters, to crack their layers and connect to them.

I didn't. Not for even a second, and if any, this is the reason why I disliked The Likeness and am so mad.

Where the fuck is the great characterization? No, really. Tell me.

So the Fantastic Four are weird? So their reactions are a little - or a lot, depending on the moment - odd? So they're hiding something? SO WHAT? When, and I mean it, do they become something else than what Cassie is telling us? WHEN? After more than 400 pages, I still can't picture one of them, I still can't say one interesting thing about them as characters, I still can't point to one hidden layer in their personalities. They're transparent, and very much one-dimensional to me. In the end, if there's something I will never forgive them, it's this : they never surprised me. Never. Past the first chapters, they never showed me something I didn't already know - or guess - about them, but played their parts as the good little soldiers they were.

Granted, I didn't mind any of them, including Cassie. But that's the thing, isn't it? Cassie changed through the story, alright, but I still can't get a sense of who she really is. I didn't mind the characters, I didn't hate nor love them, I didn't care, they're not real to me and never have been.

I don't know them.

Don't even get me started about Sam. Who the fuck is this guy? For someone who's supposed to have such a big involvement in the MC's life, the only thing I can say about him is that he's a nice guy. Cheers.

Finally, if I didn't abhor the ending, I can't say that I was satisfied either. Whilst I wasn't frustrated with In the Woods's conclusion, and thought that the somewhat openness suited the story, everything in The Likeness's ending feels lazy to me. Lazy, convenient, rushed, and worst than all that, it crushed any pretense I had of caring about these characters. It crushed the tiny hope I still held that the ending would somehow made it worth it. It didn't.

I'm not over Rob, though. Actually, I contemplated the fact that my dislike of this book could come from a wicked sense of loyalty towards him. I think that it's more complicated than that, but it wouldn't be fair to dismiss this possibility, even if it's only part of the problem. Caring for Rob didn't annihilate my ability to appreciate other characters, and it would be ridiculous of me to think so. Yet his disappearance into thin air contributed to my frustration - I'm lucid enough to acknowledge it, even if it sounds unfair, given that it wasn't his story. I KNOW THAT. Tell this to my broken heart. Stubborn little shit.

Now, what do I know? Most of my friends praised this book, so don't mind me too much. I'm gonna go sulking alone in my corner.

PS. I'm still completely devastated over Rob and I cannot let it go - my heart ache when I think of the way he's hanging somewhere, so please tell me, should I lose all hope for him?

PS2.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Christine .
568 reviews1,069 followers
February 2, 2018
5 million stars

The Likeness is an extraordinary novel. It is one of the 2-3 best books I have ever read. After reading just two Dublin Murder Squad books this month, I have made a spot for Tana French as one of my 3 all time favorite authors. She is a brilliant writer, and in my opinion has penned the quintessential psychological thriller with The Likeness.

How refreshing not to have the plot spotlighted on a kidnapped child, amnesia, or spouse-beating. This story focuses on the killing of a young woman and the cat and mouse games between the victim’s four housemates and an uncover detective who has moved into the house. The detective, Cassie Maddox, who bears an uncanny likeness to the victim, also is not being completely honest with her superior. The mind games are not only intriguing, but tension-filled with a gradual buildup of almost unbearable pressure as the story progresses. I had no idea where the author was taking us on this journey and loved the total unpredictability of the story. Every sentence holds substance. Readers who skim through novels are going to be at a disadvantage. There were several times when I went back to reread a paragraph or even a page to make sure I had squeezed all the juice out of that passage. This tale is not for action fans that want the facts, just the facts, bam bam bam. This is for those who are not in a hurry and love to be slowly seduced by the gradual rise of dread and trepidation. The ending is well done and the wrapup is leisurely and detailed, just the way I like it.

Though the mystery is superb, what I loved most was the masterful character study of Cassie Maddox. We are allowed wide-open access to Cassie’s thoughts and emotions. Underlying this is the unparalleled consummate writing style of Ms. French. Cassie is faced with countless crossroads during the investigation, many of which require split second decisions. Watching this process play out time and again was spellbinding. Cassie was relatively unscarred prior to coming to Dublin except for the unfortunate early deaths of her beloved parents, but during In the Woods and The Likeness she was battered emotionally. I found it nail-biting to see if she could hang on long enough to get the job done.

Some reviewers have downrated The Likeness because the reader must be willing to go with a couple of improbable circumstances necessary for the premise. I recognized these issues, but was fortunate to be able to run with them and become totally captivated by the story.

The Dublin Murder Squad novels have quickly become one of my 3-4 most loved series. Though the The Likeness can be read as a stand alone, with Ms. French feeding back data from In the Woods on an as-needed basis, I strongly recommend In the Woods be read first in order to preserve the total richness of The Likeness. Don’t miss this remarkable collection.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,477 reviews29.7k followers
January 1, 2021
if you like novels with dark academia vibes and crime as a genre, then this is the perfect book for you. its an undercover investigation by way of ‘the secret history’ and ‘if we were villains.’ and if that doesnt sell you, then i dont know what else will. lol.

TF has once again proven she is the master at a slow build mystery. while the primary focus is on the crime and finding the culprit, there is also a precise character study. there is so much depth and meaning behind each of the characters, its really quite remarkable.

i know many readers will find this to be a bit slow and dense, especially if they are used to fast-paced thrillers. but this is a story that creeps up on you as you cautiously follow the trail of breadcrumbs. which is just how i like my crime stories surrounding a seemingly impenetrable group of aloof university students.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,286 reviews1,246 followers
August 4, 2022
693 pages in this book and at least 593 of them were the biggest load of waffle I've ever read! So, going against most other reviews, this book was so yawn making boring, just coudnt get to the end quick enough to get it over with.

Tana French's first novel In The Woods was a good crime novel, this was not even in the same league, in fact I lost hope that it was a crime novel at all really. It's wordy, very wordy, her prose is spectacular at times but why oh why does this book have to drag out paragraphs of mindless waffle?

The plot is barely believable, a female detective looks so much like a dead girl that she slips into the dead girls life and home and nobody bats an eyelid? Pfft, as if that's going to happen, why was that even chosen as the storyline? I don't get it, Woods is (or was) a good writer so why? Baffled me.

I did a lot of eye rolling reading this and wondering what was wrong with me for not loving this like most others who have reviewed it. It was too long, particularly as most of it is pretty much about nothing. It took 100 pages for Detective Maddox to decide to go undercover or not, please, don't insult the reader, the whole book is based on her being this undercover doppelgänger so we KNEW she was going to do it.

And the ending? Let's not go there, I've wasted too much time already on this book and this short review, there are better books to conquer.

I want the hours of my life back please, very disappointing after enjoying her first novel, certainly not rushing for the next.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
October 27, 2017
First of all, and I just must say it, this is about as unlikely a premise as can be explained outside the realm of speculative fiction. This is after all a contemporary (published in 2008) murder mystery set in a real live place on the planet Earth.

That said, and in the spirit of Ray Bradbury - “let’s get in the rocket ship and go to Mars.”

OK, now that that is out of the way, this is an AWESOME second book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Not – not – not a sequel. No. French makes mention of 2007’s In the Woods and there are some of the same characters, and same Irish setting, and same police force. Other than that, this is something altogether new.

This features a co-protagonist from In the Woods: badass spunky Celtic detective Cassie Maddox. She has taken some time off after the events from French’s first book, switched from the murder squad to domestic violence and is dating Sam. Rob Ryan has moved on – he may as well be chasing the man in black across the wasteland – he’s mentioned sparingly.

But prior to being in murder, she was an undercover cop, and she and Detective Frank Mackey created an undercover alias for Cassie – Lexie Madison. Made her up. She wasn’t real, just a fake name and ID so that Cassie could work undercover.

So.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when Lexie Madison – who bears a striking LIKENESS to Cassie winds up stabbed in an abandoned famine house in County Wicklow, south of Dublin.

And so begins Tana French’s brilliant The Likeness. A murder mystery in the same way that Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a crime fiction – it is that and so much more.

And just like Porfiry and Raskolnikov's inevitable confrontation is hypnotic and magnetic, so too is Cassie’s frenetic, improbable but terrifyingly seductive infiltration of a tight group of friends. By the end French has us, hook, line, and sinker; we are enmeshed in her taut web of psychological intrigue and group dynamic thriller.

As In the Woods, French here has created a microcosm of Irish and western civilization history wound up in a tight ball of sociological have-at-you that creeps in on the reader and leaves us tied up in a muddle of empathy and shared understanding.

French evokes a sense of friendship and loyalty that can be easily understood, yet is intoxicating in its abstraction. The five friends described – Daniel, Abby, Justin and Rafe. and Lexie – have created a nirvana of twenty-something belonging. They have constructed a couch pillow fortress meant to stand the test of time. But just as any house of cards is doomed, French has revealed the fatal flaws in this group of friends that is heartbreaking in its inescapability.

Also like In the Woods, the author has conjured a sense of Ireland’s past that becomes tangible, and in this context, weirdly becomes an anachronistic suspect. Can the ancient scars of slavery and class distinction manifest into a motive for violence? Can the ghosts of Oppressions Past animate the spirit of malevolent reality? French suggests, plausibly, that old wounds are gothicly slow to heal and still capable of harm.

French has also given us a unique dual mystery to solve – not only must we move towards a finding of the murderer, but here we must also establish who is the victim. Recall that Lexie Madison was not real – she was a construct of an undercover police department, used briefly to investigate criminal activity. When detective Maddox moved on to the Murder Squad, Lexie was a part in a play discarded and discontinued. Until her very real cold body was found and colleagues of Cassie feverishly located her to discount that the discovered corpse was not her. Here, French has crafted a voyeuristic treasure of unequaled complexity that serves as a thinly designed framing device for the inimitable investigation.

Finally, the author has given us a psychological character study of loneliness and Donne-esque severance. Can we escape family and friends and all connections? What does it mean to lose parents, to be separated from our roots? Can we really just pick up and go and start over? These questions are explored in an introspective, thoughtful manner that invites further inquiry into solipsism long after the last page is turned.

A very well written, entertaining and thought provoking work.

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Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
June 4, 2022
This book absolutely changed me as a person. The Likeness follows Cassie Maddox, an Irish detective. She's assigned to solve the murder of a woman using her old undercover identity… and goes undercover as the woman herself.

It’s been such a long time since I read a detective novel that had me so thoroughly engaged from the beginning and so invested. This book was claustrophobic, and got inside my skin —it made me feel as though I were as trapped as Cassie.

Tana French is an expert at placing clues and making even red herrings feel like a part of the story—even the red herrings always, always always play a part in the eventual reveal. Indeed, these novels never succeed off one big twist, it’s more the details.

SPOILER:

What works so well about The Likeness is that it gets you to invest in characters you must also suspect—gets you invested in the idea that the perpetrator was not a certain character, or group of characters. You sympathize with those you suspect. You sense the true stakes of this death having occurred.

SPOILER:

This ending is unsatisfying too, in its own ways, but it works because 1. you get the clear answers you want, and are only left with new questions rather than old ones 2. and 3. it offers such a strong sense of growth in Cassie, whom I love so much. It is so deeply satisfying to see Cassie learn to put trust in other people as the novel progresses.

It's been two years since I read this novel, and I can honestly say it's stuck with me like few I've read. I think this is one of my favorite suspense novels ever written.

Dublin Murder Squad: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 [TK] | 6

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Profile Image for Luffy.
932 reviews698 followers
May 28, 2018
It was easy to get behind Tana French's work and bear with some of the problems I had with it. It had glitches like pacing and organizing the chapters in their order.

But I was also pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I could recall the characters and their motivations.

I thought the book deserved 4 stars, which is a score that I don't give willy nilly. The Likeness earned this score. I realize not many people will be swept by my recommendation, if it's not their favorite genre.

For those who have stuck with this series, I think I'll join you in waiting for the next book and I hope the author does not lose her inspiration.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
843 reviews1,685 followers
September 19, 2020
After a spell of reading not so good books I wanted to something that would blow me away. While discussing different genres/series with friends Tana French was mentioned. Even though Broken Harbor did not impressed me but I was ready to gamble, after all I was not on a spree where I was reading great stories one after the other and worry about jinxing the lucky streak.

And once again after 30% mark I was doubting if I picked wrong book. I had so many questions which in my opinion characters should be asking about this whole situation but they're going with the flow. So I too decided to read some more before giving up and I am glad that I stick with this book because after a certain point these characters made me throw the caution and doubt out of the window and just immerse myself in the devious minds of theirs.

I loved how French ripped off these characters layer by layer. At first they seem like these carefree bunch who don't need the world if they had each other and for a time they had but once the tragedy struck nothing was same. No matter how hard they tried to stick together but soon cracks started to show and reached a point where they no longer could be mend. Tana French did it so mercilessly, stripping these five characters to the bare minimal where every secret came out and every insecurity that they ever had reared up its ugly head and blew away the warm cocoon that they had made for themselves.

In the end I fell in love with how French played with human emotions here. It was almost unbearable at times where I put the book aside and thought about how fragile humans are even if they seem or pretend to be strong on outside but once something start eating out them from inside they just become a shell.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,946 followers
September 28, 2020
SOO good. The writing, the characters, the plot. Basically everything about this was brilliant. It is quite a long read but it's never dull and never feels drawn out. I was engaged the whole time, curious what would happen, and totally satisfied with the ending. Now I really need to continue this series!
Profile Image for Candi.
598 reviews4,533 followers
March 10, 2017
4.5 stars

"… Lexie Madison developed out of nothing like a Polaroid, she curled off the page and hung in the air like incense smoke, a girl with my face and a life from a half-forgotten dream."

Four years ago, Detective Cassie Maddox went undercover as Lexie Madison, an identity she concocted with Detective Frank Mackey. But that case is long over, and Lexie Madison should no longer exist… until she mysteriously appears once again as a dead body found in an old abandoned cottage. The fact that this dead woman carries the identity of Lexie Madison is perplexing enough, but what is terribly eerie is that she has an uncanny likeness to Detective Maddox. Now Frank Mackey is teaming up with Detective Sam O’Neill from the murder squad, much to Sam’s irritation, and proposes the perfect plan to crack the case. Not able to resist the thrill of an undercover assignment after serving a comparatively tedious assignment in Domestic Violence, Cassie rises to Frank’s challenge.

Gosh, Tana French really knows how to write! Of course, I immediately needed to find out how on earth the team was going to pull this one off?! It seemed a very risky scheme to me, and admittedly a bit farfetched. Well, implausibility be damned! I went along for the ride. The atmosphere is tense; the psychology of the characters is riveting. French gets right into the head of her narrator, Cassie, and allows the reader to totally grasp her every fear, desire, strength, weakness, and motivation. You’ll know her almost as well as you know yourself… maybe more. It made me crazy (in a good way) that Cassie could so easily slip into this role once again; to so seamlessly take on the identity of another person and to nearly become that person inside and out. I love the way she described what it’s like to work undercover.

"… the taste of undercover on my tongue again, the brush of it down the little hairs on my arms. I’d thought I remembered what it was like, every detail, but I’d been wrong: memories are nothing, soft as gauze against the ruthless razor-fineness of that edge, beautiful and lethal, one tiny slip and it’ll slice to the bone."

I loved Whitethorn House, the sinister little back lanes, and the scuttling of small animals that made me want to warn Cassie to stay alert! The inhabitants of Whitethorn House with their secrets, their constant companionship and mystifying intimacy intrigued me to say the least. Who are these people? Where is the killer? I really was on edge wondering if the perpetrator was still nearby and lurking in the darkness of the small, sullen community of Glenskehy. The folks of this place did not take kindly to strangers at all, and a death of one of their own in the distant past still inflamed many of the residents.

I won’t get into any more details; you have to read this book yourself! Not just an ordinary, psychological thriller, The Likeness has great literary merit as well. Tana French is a brilliant writer and is well attuned to all the subtleties of human behavior. I’ve read this and the first in the series and should note that it’s not completely necessary to read them in order. This would work completely fine as a stand-alone. It’s not a page-turner in the sense that there is action on every page, not even necessarily in every chapter. However, if you are like me and crave a story that really explores the depths of its characters and creates a feeling of such palpable tension and creeping suspense, then this book and this series is exactly what you need. I’m docking just half a star for the wee bit of implausibility regarding the premise of the plot, but don’t let that keep you from reading a fantastic book! As for me, I'm planning to read the entire series :)
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews101 followers
May 2, 2018
A doppelganger worthy of speculative fiction and people living in a variant of a Tolstoyan commune murder mystery.

It reads like she's casting a spell along the lines of du Maurier's "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate..." I wasn't thrilled with the action scene, but that may just be me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,847 reviews34.9k followers
October 23, 2016
Update:

I've no idea why I never wrote a review of Tana's 2nd book. Other than I didn't write reviews much - if at all - my first couple of years on Goodreads. -- [maybe I should take a lesson]-ha! Save some times! lol...,

But.... I loved Tana's first two books ...I liked them all (one I wasn't crazy about),

The first TWO books are still favorites -- even though I was and still am a little mad at her for not bringing back my favorite character ....

But I LOVE TANA FRENCH. If nothing else ...the dialogue it's ALWAYS OUTSTANDING.

I'm reading "The Trespasser" right now....AM LOVING THIS NEW 2016 release --.
Its great to see Antoinnette Conway and her partner Steve Moran. Tana French is 'on' her game with her new book -- it's exciting and fresh!!!

As for THE LIKENESS... EVERYTHING about it is GREAT!!!
If you have not read TANA FRENCH....
you're missing out reading *terrific* prose....fabulous dialogue... and engrossing intelligent Murder Squad stories!!!

I suggest the first TWO BOOKS first!

But... even her new book 'The Trespasser' could be a stand alone book.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,616 reviews12.8k followers
February 9, 2017
After being stunned by Tana French's opening novel, I was equally impressed with the second instalment of the Dublin Murder Squad. After being severely emotionally scarred during Operation Vestal, in which a young girl was murdered, Cassie Maddox left the Squad for the more structured world of Domestic Violence. After receiving a frantic call from Squad Detective (and current boyfriend) Sam O'Neill, she agrees to meet him at the scene of his latest case; perhaps her first mistake. Cassie arrives to discover a murder victim who bears a striking resemblance to her, with identification listing the victim as Lexie Madison. This startles Maddox and takes her back to days working Undercover, where Maddox used the same name. With no leads, O'Neill hatches a plan alongside Frank Mackey, Maddox's handler from those days working Undercover, wanting to place Maddox back into the life of Lexie Maddox. Their long-shot hope, to lure the killer back out of the shadows, while also allowing Maddox to gather intel from the four roommates with whom Madison shared a house. Maddox re-establishes herself as an undercover plant, testing her skills as attempts to fit into a life she never knew. To smooth over obvious gaps in what Maddox is able to ascertain about this new Lexie Madison, she heads into the house armed solely with a sketchy backstory of amnesia and the recent stabbing. As Mackey and O'Neill push her, a few motives for the attack come to the surface, though Maddox is unable to substantiate any of them. Could the killer be in plain sight, fraternizing with Maddox on a daily basis, or does an ancient grudge held by the townspeople help to fuel a hatred strong enough to kill? Maddox has a limited time to find the truth before being discovered and the killer slips away. Told with as much deliberate pacing as the previous novel, French shows that she was not a one-hit wonder. Perfect for those who seek a less than conventional murder mystery and police procedural.

I am still in awe that it took me so long to discover Tana French and her brilliant series. After pulling Adam 'Rob' Ryan into the spotlight throughout the opening novel, French turns to his (former) partner and best friend, using both her backstory and previous work in Undercover to develop this equally gripping story. Peppering the narrative with mentions of Ryan, French keeps him at arm's length and away from making even the briefest of appearances. While some readers might have found the idea of a 'lookalike' entirely dubious for this or any other novel, French has a reason for pushing this idea, discussed below. French uses this 'swap out' to develop the struggles that Cassie Maddox had playing this faux character, as any undercover plant would while trying to hone in on what happened to the victim. The characters presented throughout the novel help to bring life and action to the plot, while also showing the strains of undercover work during the building of a watertight case against a handful of suspects. The latter portion of the explores the idea of imposters, which might explain the aforementioned use of the lookalike situation. French examines both the imposters angle that individuals use to fool others (a la Jekyll and Hyde), where a person takes on a false persona for their own benefit. Alternatively, there is the imposter that one plays against themselves, trying to pretend that they fit into another socio-economic bracket or general caste. Both are damaging and yet useful in one's daily life. I would venture to say there is not a single reader who can completely divorce themselves from these situations in their own lives. French explores this theme extensively throughout the narrative, arguing that they appear on a regular basis, even if we cannot decipher them independently. Perhaps her greatest quality of French's writing is her style of slow narrative momentum to stretch the story out while keeping the reader's attention throughout. A stunning novel that is sure to garner scores of new fans for Tana French and provide much fodder for discussion.

Kudos, Madam French for keeping me hooked as I delve deeper into the Dublin Murder Squad. I cannot wait to find out what you have in store with your third novel.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:
http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Tammy.
494 reviews419 followers
December 13, 2018
This isn’t exactly a sequel but it is helpful to have read the first book in the series. The premise is outlandish and completely unbelievable. I decided to just go with it. I was rewarded with richly drawn characters reminiscent of The Secret History. French’s writing and understanding of the human psyche is always superb and this was not an exception. If you can get past the idea of a doppelganger being inserted into household of close friends without being recognized as an imposter, you’ll enjoy it. If that idea is too outrageous for you, give this a pass.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,861 reviews10.5k followers
January 12, 2015
After the evens of In the Woods, Cassie Maddox is struggling to get her life back together. When a woman resembling her is found with an ID bearing the same name Cassie used in an undercover case years before, Cassie is thrust into a life that isn't her own in an effort to find out who killed the woman with her face...

The Likeness was a tough nut to crack. The setup is fairly preposterous and was a big hurdle to overcome before I could dig into the book and enjoy Tana French's superb stylings. A woman pretending to be another woman that looks just like her in an effort to find out who killed her? Is this an episode of The Bloodhound Gang I missed?

Once I got over my initial misgivings with the setup, I enjoyed The Likeness immensely. I still loved Cassie from Operation Vestal so I was already invested in the story. Tana French is no slouch, either. Just as in In the Woods, she crafted a great cast of characters. As Cassie's identity eroded and merged with Lexie's, I have to admit that I didn't blame Cassie for getting attached to Lexie's friends and their relationship.

There were some tense moments on the road, like every time Cassie/Lexie slipped up. I had no idea what actually happened to Lexie until it was spelled out for me, nor did I guess the identity of the father of her baby.

Cassie's relationships with Sam and Frank were also one of the more interesting parts of the book. French could have easily glossed over some of those details but I'm glad she didn't. French creates some of the richest characters in crime fiction. I still wish things would have went differently with her and Rob in In the Woods, though.

Four out of five stars but French had to work harder for that fourth star than she did in In the Woods. Luckily I've got the next Dublin Murder Squad book on deck.

Profile Image for Fabian {Councillor}.
229 reviews471 followers
February 10, 2017
Yep, Tana French has succeeded in doing it yet again - writing a fantastic book which kept me on the edge of my seat from the very first to the very last page.

After finishing a book, I usually juxtapose four important elements before deciding on a specific rating: The characterization, the plot, the writing and the atmosphere. Almost never do I feel like all four of those elements have been realized to perfection by the author (as much as I hate to consider something as 'perfect'), but The Likeness is one of those books. I have nothing to criticize here at all. If you know my reviews, you know that this happens almost never, so consider this review to be a huge recommendation for Tana French's amazing mystery series.

The Plot
Set after In the Woods, the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, this book focuses on detective Cassie Maddox, who was the best friend of Rob Ryan, the narrator of the first book. Told through her first-person point of view, The Likeness opens with the corpse of a woman called Lexie Madison being found who looks exactly like Cassie. Cassie's own past is soon going to be involved as Lexie Madison was an alias Cassie has used in an undercover investigation some years ago. In order to discover who has brutally murdered Lexie Madison, Cassie slips into the role of her doppelganger and takes over her life to find out as much as possible about the four mysterious friends Lexie lived with. At that moment, Cassie knows that she has entered a dangerous game, but she wouldn't think that this game turns out to change her life forever.
As unlikely and randomly as this book's premise sounds, it immediately caught my interest and had me engaged until I turned to the last page. Twists and turns appeared around every corner, yet the book remained calm and never rushed, allowed me to sympathize with each and every one of the characters involved. The plot is so complex that it is impossible to read this book en passant - and quite a few readers seemed to criticize the premise, not without reason. How likely is it to find a doppelganger you have never met before and to be able to take over his life without anyone noticing? It is not like this happens all the time. But then, fantasy novels are just as unbelievable because they also play with the reader's imagination. For me, authenticity doesn't emerge out of the likelihood of certain scenarios, but out of the author's ability to make me believe what happened, to make me feel like this could have happened in reality.
And Tana French did make me believe.

The Characters
We have eight main characters in this book, every one of them interesting and complex in their own right. Cassie Maddox' boyfriend Sam O'Neill who struggles with accepting Cassie's undercover role; her wayward and demanding, yet clever superior Frank Mackey; the killed Lexie who has been fully fleshed out as a character in the course of the novel (something I admire the author for); and Lexie's four friends - Abby, Rafe, Justin and Daniel -, maybe the most important addition to the cast of characters in this novel. Living in an old house full of tradition, those four friends were connected by their pasts and their social strugglings, each of them accompanied by their own secrets. As mysterious as they appear to be in the beginning, Tana French presses every button to develop believable, interesting characters out of all of them, so much that at one point I didn't want this book to end anymore.

The Writing
Tana French is an amazing writer, I never doubted that after In the Woods, but with this book, she totally convinced me that her thrillers are no ordinary thrillers. They could, in my opinion, be classified as great literature, considering her talents to approach her characters and introduce and develop them with so much depth. Perhaps the most significant topic this novel deals with is the struggles Cassie endures while slipping into Lexie's life. Where does the Cassie's character end, and where does Lexie's character begin? A question Cassie has to face when she realizes how interesting Lexie's life was in comparison to her own, how easy it is to be Lexie, how endearing her friendships to Abby, Rafe, Justin and Daniel are.
But that is not everything this novel is composed of. Prominently referred to is the Irish history, a past which surely could not turn into a motivation for brutality and violence - or could it? Tana French does not back away from exploring themes like loneliness, isolation, obsession, identity struggles and suppression. And all of those themes are interconnected in such an entertaining way that I was fascinated by it with every new page.

The Atmosphere
Set in a little village in Ireland, the book introduces us to a rather dark atmosphere, with the mysterious house gaining center stage soon. Tana French seems to like letting her characters wander off into the forest in the darkness of night, even more frequently here than in In the Woods. This book is not as spine-tingling as the first novel in the series, partly because it is rather slow-paced without ever becoming boring, but you can still expect some unsettling and disturbing moments which will leave you questioning the extent of humanity.
The book itself is quite long (466 pages according to Goodreads, but my Hardcover edition was 778 pages long). It is true that some parts of it could have been shortened. But sometimes my reading soul is overpowered by guilty pleasure, and that's exactly why I didn't mind the length and didn't even want this novel to end.

Faithful Place, make an effort. My expectations are high.


In the end, I'd like to mention that this book spoils some of the events of In the Woods. While The Likeness could be read on its own, I recommend beginning with the first book to be able to capture the interesting character development and a lot of references made in this novel.

A book about transformation, about human failure, about victims turning to perpetrators and culprits becoming victims. As disturbing as parts of it were ... I loved every single moment of it.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews762 followers
February 19, 2017
Tana French could probably write a book on organic farming and I'd read it. I'd anticipate a major turf war between the USDA and the IOFGA and actually stay up late to find out whether ladybugs were an effective deterrent against garden pests. Fortunately, French's chosen milieu is much more exciting. With her debut novel In the Woods and this 2008 follow-up, French's finesse with weaving homicide investigation, Irish locale and intense character study together knocked me out.

The Likeness is narrated by Detective Cassie Maddox, a cop in her late twenties who recounts her recruitment to the UCD by the legendary head of undercover operations, Frank Mackey. Cassie's assignment was to infiltrate a drug ring at University College Dublin. Cassie and Mackey created a cover which she named Alexandra Madison. "Lexie" exits the assignment when she is stabbed, not because Cassie blew her cover, but because she did her job all too well, convincing her paranoid target that she was a dirt merchant trying to take over his business.

Cassie's attack earned her a promotion to Murder, where ultimately, an investigation known as Operation Vestal (chronicled by Tana French with In The Woods) went sideways. Cassie transferred to Domestic Violence and is introduced trying to move on with her life. She takes target practice in the underground shooting range to calm her nerves and spends time with her boyfriend, one of her Operation Vestal partners, Sam O'Neill. On an "almost spring" morning, Cassie receives an urgent call from her boyfriend summoning her to the village of Glenskehy in the Wicklow Mountains.

Arriving at a field left to run wild, Cassie gets a bad feeling about the crime scene. Instead of uniformed officers and the Technical Unit crawling all over the field, Cassie spots only two local officers, Sam and joining them, her old handler Frank Mackey, running an investigation which Cassie knows should belong to her boyfriend. The men lead Cassie to the ruins of a "famine cottage," where a young woman lies dead from a single stab wound. The victim's Trinity College ID reveals her name to be Lexie Madison. Her face is a splitting likeness of Cassie's.

Frank Mackey, who was brought in due to the possible death of one of his undercover agents, reveals to Cassie his reasons for keeping the scene quiet. "Lexie Madison" was living a half mile away with four Trinity College Dublin students. Mackey has held off notifying the students their roommate has been murdered to grant him the once in a lifetime opportunity of placing an experienced undercover officer in the identity of a murder victim, enabling Mackey to investigate Lexie's death from the inside.

I had never seen anyone who looked anything like me before. Dublin is full of scary girls who I swear to God are actually the same person, or at least come out of the same fake-tan bottle; me, I may not be a five-star babe but I am not generic. My mother's father was French, and somehow the French and the Irish combined into something specific and pretty distinctive. I don't have brothers or sisters; what I mainly have is aunts, uncles and cheerful gangs of second cousins, and none of them looked anything like me.

Cassie agrees to lay low for three days and to give her boyfriend a chance to solve the murder through conventional means. Sam dislikes Frank Mackey and dead set against his girlfriend returning to undercover work in an investigation he'd be running. He learns that "Lexie Madison" arrived at Trinity College two and a half years ago and was finishing her PhD, "something to do with women writers and pseudonyms." Her known associates were her roommates, a tightly knit group of four postgrads: Daniel March (who inherited their residence, Whitethorn House, from his great-uncle), Abby Stone, Justin Mannering and Rafe Hyland. None of the housemates indcate they knew Lexie was using a false identity. None of them indicate they knew that Lexie was pregnant.

Ready for a fresh challenge and intrigued by her doppelgänger's mysterious rise and fall, Cassie agrees to assume Lexie Madison's life once more. Operation Mirror is a go. For a week, Mackey rehearses Cassie, using video obtained from the victim's smartphone to study Lexie's voice, personality and mannerisms. Cassie memorizes every detail of Whitethorn House and the Glenskehy area. She gets Lexie's clothes. She gets Lexie's haircut. Mackey has notified the housemates that Lexie has been unable to recall the night of her attack and Cassie is able to use that trauma to explain any contradictory behavior that her housemates might detect.

"Hi," I said at the bottom of the steps, looking up at them. For a second, I thought they weren't going to answer, they had made me already, and I wondered wildly what the hell I was supposed to do now. Then Daniel took a step forwards, and the picture wavered and broke. A smile started across Justin's face, Rafe straightened up and raised one arm in a wave, and Abby came running down the steps and hugged me hard.

Authors making a living off a long-running series sometimes claim that it doesn't matter which of their books you start with. The Likeness is a rare sequel where this is actually the case. You can grab this book, start reading and not feel like you've missed anything. Not only is the narrator different, and the mystery and most of the characters new, but French takes us someplace new. It's what I love in a sequel: It's exactly the same, but completely different.

Cassie Maddox has evolved. She's no longer the Vespa riding, cartwheel turning pixie goofing off with her partner but a woman who's seen some shit. Operation Vestal, which was covered by In the Woods, is whispered and alluded to in this book but doesn't require familiarity from the reader; Operation Vestal is simply that person or thing that disrupted your life and keeps you on edge wondering if you had it to do over again what you might've done differently.

Rather than focus purely on a homicide investigation, this time French plunges us into the world of an undercover agent. The camera lens was always where I wanted it. I was curious about how someone would be recruited to undercover and what skills she'd have. French goes there. I was interested in the dynamic between the handler and his undercover and how trust could be abused. French goes there. I was excited to discover the various ways an undercover can trip herself up. French goes there. And I anticipated the undercover developing intimate feelings for people she was manipulating. French goes there too.

And the writing is intoxicating.

God, that first week. Even thinking about it I want to bite into it like the world's brightest red apple. In the middle of an all-out murder investigation, while Sam worked his way painstakingly through various shades of scumbag and Frank tried to explain our situation to the FBI without coming across like a lunatic, there was nothing I was supposed to be doing except living Lexie's life. It gave me a gleeful, lazy, daring feeling, right down to my toes, like mitching off to school when it's the best day of spring and you know your class has to dissect frogs.

The only matter I'd bring up before the complaint board is the length of the book. Not the number of pages, but how long the chapters are and some of the scenes run. Daniel, Abby, Justin and Rafe are almost always together so the scenes at Whitethorn House take a while to wind down once these postgrads get to talking, particularly about their own feelings for each other. I did like what French did with the house, drawing on the dreamlike elements of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and the naivete of the backpacker utopia in Alex Garland's The Beach.

While the novelty of the setting, the mystery and the emotional sucker punch of In the Woods couldn't be repeated, French again uses atmosphere to tantalize (even hinting, artfully, at the possibility of the supernatural once again), introduces colorful jigsaw pieces of suspects and motives, and ties up everything with emotional satisfaction. Great show.
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,388 reviews77.2k followers
February 6, 2019
This book. If you have not read it- BUY IT AND READ IT NOW. I've read all 5 (as of Oct 2015) in the series and this one is by far the best! I really enjoyed Cassie's character from In the Woods, so I was excited to follow her in her own journey this time. In short, Cassie agrees to go undercover posing as a girl who looks exactly like her but was murdered. She lived in a house with her roommates; Cassie's mission is to assimilate back into the house and to find out who murdered Lexie (the girl was using the name Cassie had previously used undercover). I was pretty surprised by the ending; I wasn't sure "who did it" if you will. Overall a great mystery- if you like police procedurals you will like all of Tana French's novels.
Profile Image for Sr3yas.
223 reviews996 followers
March 17, 2018
My first trip to Dublin wrecked my cold heart , and it took me a year and some excellent reinforcement to make me step back into the game. Trust me, Cassie, It was not just you who needed a timeout after operation Vestal.

In Likeness, we find that Cassie has transferred from the Murder squad to relatively peaceful Domestic violence department. But when a body turns up near a village, she gets an urgent call from Detective Sam to report to the murder scene ASAP, and she finds herself staring at her lifeless body.

Yea.

Before Cassie was a detective, she used to work in the Undercover department. Her boss Frank Mackey and Cassie created Lexie Madison. They made her up from nothing so that Cassie can use the fake identity for a case. That was years before, and believe it or not, someone who looks like exactly like Cassie stole that (fake undercover) identity and been living in Dublin as a postgraduate art student.

I know what you're thinking- IT'S A SECRET TWIN.




Okay, it's not a secret twin.

The first impression after reading the opening chapters of the novel was same as my reaction to the new rebooted Mummy.



There is a small thread of statistics that say the story is not impossible, just improbable. On the top of that, the whole operation to catch the killer has all the makings of a terrible plan. And if you find yourself making peace with this unconventional premise and start singing Tana French's mirror image tune, you're halfway home.



❝ I was starting to wonder if I’d been underestimating, not the killer, but the victim.❞


Other than our returning characters Cassie and Sam, we are introduced to Frank Mackey from undercover, who is a tough detective with a manipulative streak. You'll either love him or hate him... or you'll love him and hate him! We are also introduced to Lexie's (AKA the dead girl) four friends who she shared an almost ruined Georgian estate!



So here is the thing: I really enjoyed the story. And here is the weird part: The mystery of the case is not the high point here, as it doesn't offer anything genre-altering. I enjoyed it because of the drama, characters, the conflict and the unsettling background. I felt that the elements that felt odd resolved itself towards the finale, and the story elevates itself through peculiar inner mechanisms of the players. The eerie atmosphere of the house and the history behind it truly added a different shade to the story.



It's not all smooth sailing, there were times when I found myself stuck on an island with no characters to root for. There were times when I thought French was going to drop the ball and screw up spectacularly. But somehow, when everything was said & done, and when the dust was settled, I found myself liking the likeness.

BR Report:

Shout out to Orient and Mimi for an excellent buddy read. We had tons of fun discussing the developments and characters, and I couldn't have asked for a better company!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
February 11, 2011
As seen on The Readventurer

Impressive. Very impressive. I think now, after reading two of Tana French's novels, I finally know what a good psychological thriller is. It is something that goes beyond simple figuring out whodunit, something that delves into the minds investigators, victims and killers, something that focuses on exploring the motives and states of mind rather than logistics of the crimes.

It is the psychological part of The Likeness that won me over, because, let's face it, the premise of this book borders on implausible. Cassie Maddox is recruited to go undercover and impersonate a murder victim, who not only, coincidentally, looks exactly like Cassie, but who also had stolen Cassie's last completely made-up undercover identity of Lexie Maddison! What are the odds of that? Plus, Cassie has to live in a house with 4 friends of the dead girl! Is it possible at all? To learn and assume someone's identity so well that even the closest friends don't see the difference?

Luckily, French knows her stuff. I totally bought the story in the end. It is staggering how much work it takes to prepare for undercover, how much psychological effort it takes to stay in character, and how hard it is not to completely succumb and merge into this character. It didn't look that difficult here



did it?

I loved how the book portrayed the enormous difficulty of Cassie's assignment, I loved uncovering bit by bit the intricacies of Lexie's identity, I loved getting to know Lexie's friends and witnessing their strange bond.

What disappointed me in the beginning was that I had expected to read more about Rob Ryan from In the Woods. No luck. The Likeness is Cassie's and only Cassie's story. I got over it pretty quickly though. I am now looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series - Faithful Place - which, as far as I know, will focus on Frank, Cassie's undercover boss introduced in this novel. I kind of like the idea of a series of books which stays fresh because of the narrator changes.

The other complaint is that at times the story seemed too wordy - too much conversing, too much description, I just wanted it move along faster. But then, on the second thought, these elements most likely made Tana French's books such enchanting, atmospheric, disturbing reads. So maybe this is not a complaint at all...
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews207 followers
March 12, 2018
Full review now up 😉

3,5🌟

A crazy BR with the best squad ever! Mimi and Sreyas 😉 Thanks guys for going into this rollercoaster ride with me!



This book blew my mind!!! 😱 At first I felt like reading a not successful story from a soap opera with unlikely theory. That really REALLY annoyed me! But after some time and 200 pages in, the situation changed to better, even awesome! I ended up loving this book and craving for more! And it left me emotionally drained....



“Humor me,” Frank said. “Don’t tell me till I’ve finished. Once you’ve heard me out, you can tell me to f**k off all you like, and I won’t say a word. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”


NARRATIVE

So, here it goes! When I firstly heard about “The Likeness”, I was really excited as I loved Cassie in book one, looked forward to meet her again so it was great to know that she has her shine hour without that mind-pooper Rob! Also the main idea to use the doppelganger theme sounded brilliant as I was making evil plans about a twin lost in birth, some crazy plastic surgery or a really talented actress with fascinating make-up skills! The lack of believability for the whole doppelganger story made a great trouble in the beginning. However, I quite liked book one in this series, despite the flaws, I could clearly see the talent of the author and once again I could see that she knows how to entwine a very good story. As my GR friend Sreyas said, real Murder on the Orient Express gem!!!!

Reading the opening sentences in “The Likeness”, I felt like I was transferred into Rebecca’s story, with an old house full of haunted past.

Some nights, if I’m sleeping on my own, I still dream about Whitethorn House. In the dream it’s always spring, cool fine light with a late-afternoon haze.



And it delivers, a spooky old house is presented to me further in the story. Even the stories of both Whitehorn and Manderley are somehow connected….

Like “In the Woods”, “The Likeness” centers on Dublin and we get yet another murder investigation for mah gurl, Cassie, who’s the main narrator 💜

Cassie’s emotional state is interesting to observe, the beauty of simple, ordinary life is explored in great attention and at the same time if left me craving for a comeback to the investigation, looking for suspects as it’s a detective story, dang it! The detective part had its ups and downs, in comparison to book one, the mystery is almost fully solved in “The Likeness” and that is a huge plus as we know who and why did it, there are some shady things left but this uncertainty wasn’t that obvious and unsatisfying as in Rob’s mystery in book 1. That being a tasty ‘up’, I encountered the not so tasty ‘down’, I had a strong suspicion about the killer from the middle of the book as the person’s emotional profile fit the killer’s for the situation in the book, well, I must admit, I had two killers in mind and cheers to French that she managed to toss the bone to another person to make me turn my suspicions elsewhere! One more means to enlarge the haunting theme is the tie between two stories of


PACE

“The Likeness” isn’t a common detective mystery. The tension, the haunting atmosphere takes time to get built and only some 150 pages in I could feel the point striking in. Some of what happens in the story is quite predictable and too convent, but certainly not all of it. The slow a bit pace let me dive into the world of “The Likeness” struggling for most of the beginning, it almost felt like a soap opera, but later on I was pulled into Cassie’s world and it kept me hooked till the very last page. But I must admit, the doppelganger’s theme still irritated me, thought, I just put it aside for a time as the story just shines with tension, haunting atmosphere and secrets when you are past the struggle in 150 pages or so.

CHARACTERS

The biggest part of the story centers on Cassie-Lexie and her time in Whitethorn House with the Fantastic Four: the cold and bossy Daniel, the self-absorbed Rafe, the eccentric Abby and the nervous Justin. That’s where the core of the story lies, the simple difficultness of the inner relationships and difficult simplicity of the emotions, grips with effective fulfillment and, in some scenes dumps a load of unnecessary heavy mood. So instead of enjoying the story all the reading time, I felt a bit tired and thinking sad thoughts.

Danger, of course, lurks around every corner and lets us see the tender, vulnerable side of Cassie, who at heart, is very lonely, so no surprise that she responds to the warmth and affection which was offered in Whitethorn by the Fantastic Four and sucks her into the world of Lexie. I enjoyed my playdate in “The Likeness” after all, despite the wish for the doppelganger’s story to have more credibility. I just couldn’t believe that exact likeness of body, face features and place can be reached in one situation. Moreover, the fact that the close, really close friends believed the fraud, except one person with enough wit! In this case I felt that this undercover operation had a bad effect on Cassie as a detective. I cheer for her deduction skills, but all the secrecy and hiding the important facts didn’t give her credit.

To sum up, “The Likeness “isn’t a fast paced detective thriller, it fuels mostly on the character development and fitting atmosphere building. The story is rather predictable, not very believable sometimes but definitely thought provoking and gripping.
Profile Image for Hannah.
583 reviews1,042 followers
February 15, 2017
I love the way Tana French writes, but for now I haven't loved those of her books that I have read. To be fair, I don't really read much crime fiction so it might be a genre thing. I am still intrigued enough to keep reading her books because something about the world she is creating is appealing to me.

The Likeness follows Cassie Maddox, who was my favourite character from the previous book in the series (In the Woods), so I was immediately pleased with it. But what follows is the most unrealistic premise imaginable; a girl who looks like Cassie and who took the place of her former undercover assignment, is found dead. So what is the logical step to take? Excactly, let Cassie pretend to be the girl and find the murderer this way. She moves into the house the murdered girl lived in with her four friends and starts to be as attached to it as the others. Other reviewers have said they were able to suspend their disbelieve and enjoy the story from there but I did not manage that. For me the unbelievable premise stuck in my head and I just could not just go with it. I do like my realistic fiction to be just that: realistic.

I love the characters Tana French creates; these are the greatest strength of her books. They do not feel like characters but rather like real people. It helps that she lets her protagonist be flawed, although ultimately brilliant. Cassie is at the same time infuriating and lovable and I really hope to at least see her again in one the later books.

The atmosphere she creates is also impressive; the house and its environment is as much as a main character as the people inhabiting it. I could just imagine it and the attachment Cassie forms to this house as well as the people living there was believable and heartbreaking.

This book took me forever to read; I mean, my copy has around 700 pages but that still does not explain why it took me so long. Once I was reading it, I enjoyed it but I somehow never felt compelled to pick it up again. But I already have the next book and I will definitely pick that up whenever I feel like reading a crime novel.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,466 followers
August 27, 2016
"We had worked together seamlessly, she and I. I had drawn her to this house, this life, every bit as neatly and surely as she had drawn me."

Tana French knows how to conjure up the most charmingly creepy characters out of thin air like nobody's business - damaged individuals who go about life like sentient, breathing time bombs about to go off and leave a trail of wreckage consisting of wounded hearts and shattered illusions in the wake of their committed mistakes. Call this tale of blurred identities a flight of her fancy where the basic premise induces one eye-roll after another. Call this The Secret History redux. Call this anything at all. But a beautifully worded commentary on the unpredictability of human behavior will remain as unputdownable under any other name, all criticisms notwithstanding.

A murdered girl with a fake identity made up and used by an undercover cop and her superior years ago, and that same undercover cop destined to unravel the mystery of her murder by pretending to be the dead girl brought to life - who are we kidding here? All of this sounds ridiculous on several levels.

But hey it's Tana French! When she tells you a story, you deferentially suspend disbelief, snuggle into the comfort of your blanket, and read till you hear the first bird gleefully chirping outside your window signalling the onset of yet another morning.

'The Likeness' is a story about people who breach forbidden boundaries in search of the ultimate freedom, refuse to fit into some generic, pre-determined cog in the wheel of society and develop a hermetically sealed, secretive world of their very own where no outside forces are allowed to operate. And it depicts how this painstakingly achieved state of domestic harmony comes apart at the seams when the personal needs of an individual jeopardize the unity of the close-knit group. Thus in the same vein as its predecessor, 'The Likeness' ingeniously utilizes its characters and events to introspect on the fallout of human foibles. But it is important to note here that it is not much of a standalone mystery. It is essential that readers acquaint themselves with the happenings of the first book in the series to grasp the motivations behind our headstrong, kickass female protagonist's actions and the fragile state of her mind.

It has been 6 months since the spectacularly eerie and depressing events of 'In the Woods' and Operation Vestal blew up in the face of Detectives Rob and Cassie, damaging their relationship beyond any hope of salvation, and leaving them with emotional scars that run much deeper than they care to admit to themselves. Cassie has moved from the Murder Squad to Domestic Violence, Rob is stuck in some other unknown branch of the police department, both no longer on speaking terms. In the midst of this irredeemable mess, a baffling murder case surfaces where the victim resembles Cassie down to her last lock of hair and carries an alias Cassie had used years ago on an undercover drug bust and gotten rid of later on. With no leads to follow and the mystery over the girl's true identity steadily deepening, Cassie decides to revisit her undercover roots (much to the chagrin of her gentle and considerate detective boyfriend Sam O'Neill) by masquerading as the victim, who somehow survived the assault, and returning to the secluded Whitethorn House with its assortment of 4 other inhabitants who are all PhD students of Trinity like Lexie, the murdered girl. Cassie aka Lexie's return under extraordinary circumstances triggers a set of curious events which, in turn, reveal alarming aspects of the lives of the 5 students whose closeness not only hints at something inexplicably disturbing but reveals darker sides of their past lives.

To be fair, this installment of the Dublin Murder Squad series is slightly underwhelming compared to Ms French's brilliant debut. None of the occurrences narrated are as bone-chilling or spooky and an awareness of the wafer thin nature of the logic presented creeps in once in a while. The very Secret History-ish list of ensemble characters (Daniel is Henry, Justin is Francis, Rafe is a cross between Charles and Bunny while Lexie and Abby have shades of Camilla in themselves) evoke a keen sense of déjà vu and the ending disappoints since the emotional aftermath of the crime(s) is much less affecting here compared to the climax of 'In the Woods', which begs the question why I have still rated this 4 stars despite the flaws.

A good way to answer this question will be to put my finger on French's accurate reconstruction of that feather light feeling of not being tethered to worldly considerations yet and that firm, transient belief in the fact that we'll always remain young and invincible, forever unyielding to civilization's ruthless demands - the wonderful friendships of student life which slip right through our grasp and melt away into oblivion like treacherous mirages as 'real life' hurls one gauntlet after another our way. And it is this thoughtful portrayal of that unavoidable tragedy, of having to grow up and grow out of the optimism of youth, that all of us eventually experience at some point of time which tugs at the heartstrings the most and transforms 'The Likeness' into more of an homage to the intrigue and vigor of youth from just a preternatural murder mystery.

P.S.:-Only Tana French could have rescued me from my reading rut in such style.
Profile Image for carol..
1,502 reviews7,555 followers
January 9, 2012
Impressive writing. Somewhat lyrical for a detective/mystery, but it added to the overall enjoyment. While the plot of replacing someone who was already using an assumed identity is improbable, French did a wonderful job of making it almost believable. The plot has a strong psychological angle, as the orphaned Cassie goes undercover, and finds herself in a close-knit circle of friends that are almost like family. Luckily for Cassie, they all have a rule of "no pasts," which helps protect her from inconsistencies in her story. She slowly spirals into worse and worse decision-making, and we can see how her desire for family is clouding her judgement. The murderer is scarcely a surprise to the reader, but the undertone of danger remains because she isn't seeing clearly anymore.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 8 books6,900 followers
August 31, 2010
Like a great many other people, I thoroughly enjoyed Tana French's debut novel, In the Woods, and I was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to finally get to her second book, The Likeness: A Novel. I find, though, that after finishing it, I have very mixed feelings about it.

The book features Dublin Detective Cassie Maddox who returns from "In the Woods." After a particularly brutal murder case, Cassie has transferred out of the Murder Squad and is now working in Domestic Violence. But she is called to the scene of a murder when detectives discover a victim who could be Cassie's identical twin. If that weren't enough, the victim is also carrying ID indicating that she is Lexie Madison, an identity that Cassie created and used when she was formerly working undercover.

The victim was a Trinity College graduate student living in an isolated rural house with four other graduate students. There is precious little evidence at the scene, and so Cassie's former boss in the undercover unit, Frank Mackey, conceives of a plan in which the housemates will be told that the victim, Lexie, was wounded but not killed. After a week in which the victim is allegedly being treated in the hospital, Cassie will assume the dead woman's identity, move back into the house and see what evidence she can gather about the murder from within. Not only that, but Cassie will also take over the victim's graduate studies and the students that she was tutoring.

All crime novels require that the reader suspend disbelief, at least to some extent, but this one requires a greater leap than most. It's hard to get your head around the fact that in only a week's time, and with only a brief video to study along with interviews of the housemates conducted by other detectives, Cassie could step into this woman's life, living with people that Lexie had known intimately, and that no one is going to suspect the substitution. And neither will the woman's professors and students. Somehow Cassie has also absorbed enough of the subject matter that she can pick up Lexie's professional life as well.

If you can get beyond that--and I managed to do so for a while--this is an absolutely engrossing book. French writes beautifully and the strength of the book lies in the characters that she has created and in the world of the Irish culture and countryside that she portrays. And even more interesting than the progress of the investigation itself is watching the effect of the impersonation on Cassie who begins to lose herself as she grows more deeply attached to Lexie's life and the people who surrounded her.

Ultimately the book lost me about two-thirds of the way through when one of the characters behaved so irrationally--at least to my mind--that I just couldn't buy into it anymore. Still, even at that, I liked this book quite a bit because in the end, I think, it's strengths far outweighed what, again for me, were it's weaknesses. I already have a copy of French's next book, Faithful Place in my stack of books to be read, and I am anxious to get to it.

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