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Tuesday, December 23, 2014


5 stars out of 5

A year ago - almost to the day - I finished the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods. I'd given that book a go because one of my good friends kept telling me (make that pestering me) about how good this author is. She was right; by the time I was halfway through that one, I was certain it would earn 5 stars from me, and it did ( Of course, I planned to read others; but life (and a lengthy to-read list) got in the way. When I finally opened this one, the second in the series featuring Detective Cassie Maddox, it was with great expectations.

Quickly, they fell a bit flat; whether it was because it's a busy season and my mind was on other things or because the first few chapters just didn't grab me, I struggled a bit to get into it. But I'm betting it was the holiday bustle, because suddenly things started to pick up and didn't stop till the end - which, given the time I was forced to spend shopping, wrapping, decorating and cooking, didn't happen nearly as soon as I'd wanted.

Just a few months after coming off the life-changing events of the first book, Cassie has left Homicide behind and is working the Domestic Violence beat. Then, she gets a call asking her to come to a crime scene. A girl has been murdered, but there's a freaky twist: The dead girl is a dead ringer for Cassie and even has an ID card bearing the name Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie used during an undercover sting. Although Cassie is reluctant to get involved, she's naturally curious - and accepts the assignment that will take her undercover once again, this time posing as the "twin" to go live with the dead girl's housemates. 

Although they knew their friend had been stabbed, they hadn't been told she'd been killed; all Cassie had to do, then, was study Lexie's vocal and speech patterns, stick on a bandage to cover the fake wound (also helpful in concealing a microphone) and assume Lexie's identity. Meantime, Cassie is trying to juggle a budding but serious romance with fellow Detective Sam O'Neill, who's also working the case and is, to put it mildly, less than thrilled when Cassie agrees to duck under the radar all by herself. 

As an aside, I must say that the names gave me pause for a while until I got used to them; two of our now-grown granddaughters - sisters - are named Cassandra and Alexandra. And as a second aside, I'll note that it's not necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one; the author has provided ample background information here so nothing is lost (except perhaps the enjoyment of reading the also-outstanding first book).

Cassie pulls off the impersonation in fine form, although not without a few hiccups here and there that, had she not had her wits about her, would have given her away. But after all, it wasn't supposed to be a long-term deal. The intent was simply to find out what she can from the other housemates, who are such tight comrades that they've stuck to what the police believe is a concocted version of what happened on the night of the murder. Get the info and get out was to be the name of the game.

Good plan, perhaps, but game rules are subject to change as they do here, when Cassie and her detective buddies learn that Lexie may not have been the person her housemates thought she was. And, the closeness of the group with such quirky personalities brings up still more unsettling questions. Then, as Cassie gets to know the others, she begins to relate more to Lexie's persona than an objective investigator should - not a plus if she wants to get out alive.

When it comes to character development, the author does a stellar job. Whether or not any of the people here are likable wasn't important; all that mattered to me was finding out what was lurking in the depths of their minds - exactly what Cassie herself was trying to learn. Put that together with well-written, believable dialogue and a suspenseful plot, and it's another winner in my book.

The Likeness by Tana French (Penguin Books reprint edition, July 2008); 492 pp.

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