The Likeness Review
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If you think back to high school or college, you’ll probably remember the small group of friends that you hung around with. Back then, you might have wanted to spend the rest of your life with those friends and shut the world out—because they “got” you. But then the sane part of you spoke up, and you realized that high school ends, college ends, and friendships, no matter how close, scatter until there’s nothing left but fond memories. For the five friends in The Likeness, though, sanity stayed quiet, and disaster followed soon after.

On a cold morning, a woman is found dead from a stab wound in an abandoned cottage just outside of Glenskehy, Ireland. Detective Sam O’Neill makes a frantic call to Cassie Maddox, who’s now working Domestic Violence, and is relieved to find her alive. The dead woman looks exactly like Cassie—and, to make it even more chilling, the woman is carrying the ID of Alexandra Madison, an alias that Cassie used undercover years ago.

Cassie’s former boss, Frank Mackey, decides to send Cassie into Whitethorn House, where Alexandra (Lexie) lived with a group of college friends. Frank has suspicions that the remaining four friends may have had something to do with Lexie’s death.

Though she’s not completely over her last case with her former partner Rob Ryan, Cassie still goes in and becomes deeply involved with the strange university friends. She finds herself becoming emotionally involved, enjoying their simplistic way of living. It becomes seductive, and Cassie loses her objectivity and comes dangerously close to losing her identity.

The Likeness is so incredibly gloomy that I often felt a heavy weight on my heart as I read. I couldn’t wait to get to the end so I could shut the book and forget it. But, in another sense, I got so caught up in the lives of these characters that it was almost scary—not to mention disturbing. The mystery surrounding each one—especially their pasts and the secrets you know they’ve kept hidden below the surface—will draw you in, and you’ll want to uncover everything about them. The simplicity of what they wanted from life—to be together always and left alone by the rest of the world—is so seductive that I couldn’t help but want it, too, even when things start to fall apart. I could see why Cassie was seduced by it.

Provocative yet unfathomable, The Likeness isn’t a straightforward murder case. The in-depth makeup of each character is astounding—and you’ll feel as if these characters actually live and breathe somewhere out there. The house itself lends a creepiness to the story, because you’ll feel as if Lexie is still there, hanging out in the shadows, waiting for something you’re never quite sure of. Though it’s not a fast-paced read, your heart will still thunder in your ears as each page draws you closer to unlocking the secret of what really happened on the night Lexie Madison died.

Though the sheer depressing nature of The Likeness almost had me setting it aside for something less heavy, Tana French is a brilliant and compelling author. She’ll grab you and make you take in all the psychological horror, and you’ll be powerless to put it aside. I both loved and hated The Likeness for that very reason.

If you pick this novel up, be prepared for a deep emotional impact, and be sure to have something hilarious lined up to read next. Trust me, you’ll need it after reading The Likeness.

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