French, Tana - 'The Likeness'
THE LIKENESS features Detective Cassie Maddox, a former detective in both the Undercover, and Murder squads, but currently in DV (Domestic Violence). She bears an uncanny likeness to a recent murder victim, so much so that her boyfriend Sam O'Neill, who is in charge of the case, thinks it is her when he first sees the body. Not only that, but the victim's name, Lexie Madison, is the assumed name that Cassie used previously when she was working undercover.
Whoever Lexie was, she seems to have stolen that identity and taken on at least part of Cassie's former life. She was studying at Trinity for a PhD in English literature, and living with four other people in a country house just outside the village of Glenskehy in Wicklow. It is clear from the start that there are very few clues as to who murdered her, and Cassie's former boss in Undercover, Frankie Mackay, suggests that they don't disclose that she was murdered, but only that she is critically ill in hospital, with the possibility that if they don't find who murdered her quickly, Cassie can go undercover once more and play Lexie, back from hospital, to see if she can find out from an insider's view, who might have killed her.
The idea is an interesting one, as murders are less often told from the point of view of the supposed victim. Cassie has also recently emerged from a difficult time on the Murder Squad, which prompted her move into DV, and she sees this as a chance to take control of her own life once more. Conveniently, Lexie always took a solitary walk after dinner in the fields close to the house, which allows Cassie to phone in and talk to the murder squad. She also wears a microphone, hidden in her fake bandages that cover up the stitches that she had as a result of the attack that nearly killed her, that transmits all her conversations.
The bulk of the book describes her undercover role, her gradual infiltration back into the lives of her housemates, her developing fondness for the house, the people, and the life that Lexie led, before the cracks start to develop, and the truth about what happened, gradually is revealed. There is the inevitable difficulty that Cassie becomes attached to her four new housemates, while trying to remember that she is still a detective playing an undercover role, and she has to try hard to maintain her objectivity. Moreover, the victim herself had a chequered past, in which she switched identity several times, in a parallel of the life of the undercover detective, and had clearly hidden her past from her housemates.
The book is not just about what happened, but why. The five housemates have all had or have difficult family backgrounds, they agree not to talk about their past, and are making their own family anew, one as perfect as possible. This is of course an impossible dream, and one which inevitably leads to tragedy. While the book is a long one (700 pages) it is an engrossing read, and one to definitely recommend.
Read another review of THE LIKENESS.
Michelle Peckham, England