Imagine The Parent Trap meets The Departed, and you’ve got The Likeness, Tana French’s nearly pitch-perfect follow-up to her 2007 debut thriller, In the Woods. Fresh off a harrowing murder case, Dublin police detective Cassie Maddox begins her stint in the domestic violence division, then gets pulled back into the murder squad after cops find the body of a grad student stabbed in a small town nearby. Not only does the victim resemble Maddox to a T, she shares her old undercover name, Lexie Madison.
Maddox’s brazen former boss decides to delay publicizing the murder and persuades Maddox to pull a switcheroo. Soon, Maddox infiltrates the dead girl’s home — inhabited by four roommates and surrounded by suspicious neighbors — to find the killer. It’s an ambitious concept that would be wholly unbelievable in the hands of a less capable writer. Thankfully, French takes her time developing her story (the first 100 pages are wisely spent preparing Maddox for her complex undercover sting). Even more impressive is the author’s ability to convey the distinct eccentricities of Lexie’s literature-loving roommates, particularly Rafe, a messy, musically inclined, heavy-drinking rageaholic calmed only by a good joke. Read one page of his snappy, brainy dialogue with the roommates (”Today Henry [V] would be running a banana republic with serious border issues and a dodgy nuclear-weapons program”), and you’ll understand why Maddox becomes too emotionally caught up with her suspects. You will too. A