The Likeness

Thoughts   The Likeness by Tana French, Penguin Books 2008, 466 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I enjoyed French’s debut, In the Woods, and picked this up now precisely because I was hoping for something I could get into fast and not want to put down.   It worked.   [Purchased.]     Counts for R.I.P. V.

FIRST SENTENCE:  Prologue.   Some nights, if I’m sleeping on my own, I still dream about Whitehorn House.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    I’m going to quote the back of the book blurb:

Six months after a particulary nasty case, Detective Cassie Maddox has transferred out of Dublin’s Murder squad and has no plans to go back.  That is, until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene.

It’s only when she sees the body that Cassie understands the hurry.  The victim, a young woman, is Cassies’s double and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used on an undercover job.  Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl but, more importantly, who is this girl?  And as reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, Cassie moves dangerously close to losing herself forever.

RANDOM THOUGHTs:    I was pulled into how introspective Cassie was while also thinking that is was a bit melodramatic.    I both agreed with how the author gradually unfolded the presentation of the housemates of Whitethorn and wondered how they ever found each other.   Questions would pop up in my head and never get resolved, too.    (On the other hand, I think loose ends were tied up more neatly in this than in In the Woods.)   One of the leaders of the group was too perfectly cast; I didn’t trust his characterization and I questioned another’s devotion to him.   This is most definitely a book I would love to discuss and ask, ‘what was up with ____; why and who was he pushing at?’   Much good stuff to discuss if this was a book club book and I don’t necessarily think I would be spoiling to ask, but I won’t.

Per the question of whether or not it is a good idea to read In the Woods before tackling this one?   I would say yes.  In fact, I think the closer you read these two back to back, the better!   Even though they really are unrelated. I had already forgotten what happened exactly to so upset Cassie and why she transferred out of Murder-Squad and was constantly wishing I could quicker find a full recap of that – not that I bothered.   I  was just a bit annoyed with how I never remember how books end;  I only remember if I liked a book or not.

I thought the deep thoughts (on war, economics, society, class status, governments) that were sprinkled here and there were wonderful and/or provoking.   Some samples:

I know that small-town silence.   I’d run into it before, intangible as smoke and solid as stone.  We honed it on the British for centuries and it’s ingrained, the instinct for a place to close up like a fist when the police come knocking.  Sometimes it means nothing more than that;  but it’s a powerful thing, that silence, dark and tricky and lawless.  p.212

Frightened people are obedient – not just physically but intellectually and emotionally.  If your employer tells you to work overtime, and you know that refusing could jeopardize everything you have, then not only do you work the overtime, but you convince yourself that you’re doing it voluntarily, or out of loyalty to the company;  because the alternative is to acknowledge that you are living in terror.   p.337

FINAL THOUGHTS:    I enjoyed reading this and was entranced all the way through despite a few silly nagging little doubts about the characters that could have annoyed me but I suppressed.     French is talented and even if I don’t quite consider her a favorite author, I look forward to reading more from her.   Faithful Place is next.

I was thrilled [THRILLED!!!] that I had read Watership Down earlier this year because it had references to those silly rabbits:

For some reason, the past – any of our pasts – was solidly off-limits.  They were like the creepy rabbits … who won’t answer questions beginning with “Where.”

RATING:    Four slices of pie.

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p.198  strop – ‘…just as likely to storm out in a strop as to tell you what you wanted to know…’   I could only find this as a form of STROPPY = Easily offended or annoyed; ill-tempered or belligerent. (Chiefly British)

p.202  git – an unpleasant or contemptible person.  (noun, British, informal)

p.308  gavotte – an old French dance in moderately quick quadruple meter.


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Review: In the Woods

Review itwbtf In the Woods by Tana French, Penguin Books 2007, 429 pages.    An Edgar Award Winner (Best First Novel by an American Author)

MOTIVATION FOR READING:     For book club (meeting TODAY!)     I suggested this – not sure why exactly it came to mind at that moment to be honest;   when someone asked “What book to read next?”  and after a few suggestions that had already been read by some or another.     At first I sug’d The Likeness (French’s second book, recently released) because I wasn’t sure which came first.    No one had heard of either and all seemed eager to try a thriller/mystery.

I was intrigued by this winning the Edgar – how does a new author write a winner set in another country?  Maybe it happens all the time – I don’t know.    I am intrigued by Tana French:    she grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi.     Huh.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT:     A police detective who escaped a terrifying childhood event of which he has few to no memories is assigned a case of a murdered child found in the very same place he grew up.   He has a partner that is awesome.

WHAT’s GOOD:     The language, the descriptions of setting and mood are vivid and unsettling.   The characters are wonderfully complicated and more than likable.    Yet again,   it’s unsettling.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    I have only extremely minor complaints; one is my own personal non-relatableness to the word ‘tracksuit’.    It was used often enough that I kept asking myself ‘What the huh?   who says ‘tracksuit’?   I just don’t use the word and for an American author – it bugged me for some odd reason.      The other complaint is **** POSSIBLE SPOILER MAYBE!  DO NOT READ NEXT SENTENCE! ****  the dropping of the huge hint about the possible murder weapon and then ignoring it for about 100 pages.   It was clumsy and noticeable.     That sounds way harsher than I mean it to but if I stop and think about something as to plot device in a murder story I tend to get a bit critical.    I want to be totally absorbed and sucked in when I read a thriller.

On the other hand, I don’t mind stopping to admire beautiful language and French delivers on this very well.

And then there’s the whole ending thing.     I’m sure it will be talked about today at club.

I rate this a high FOUR PIE.fourpie

Other reviews that influenced me:

Trish at Hey Lady!
Raych at books I done read
Stephanie’s Written Word

updated to add:   Fyrefly loved this book!

and, of course, many many more:    Enjoy FyreFly’s awesome blog search to discover them all.