June 27, 2014

The Favorite Factor: The Likeness

The Likeness by Tana French

Release Date: July 2008
Publisher: Penguin | Viking
Pages: 466 pages
Source & Format: Gifted; Kindle e-book
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #2
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She's transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, but she's too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl's ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective, and she looks exactly like Cassie.

With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie's real identity, Cassie's old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn't fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim's identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.

As she is drawn into Lexie's world, Cassie realizes that the girl's secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie's growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk. Another gripping psychological thriller featuring the headstrong protagonist we've come to love, from an author who has proven that she can deliver.
Cassie and I were chatting about our love for adult fiction, and we wanted to figure out a way to really highlight that love with a new feature. So, we're bringing you adult fiction reviews where we highlight five factors: The Frame (Setting), The Flow (Plot), The Faces (Characters), The Function (Writing Overall) and The Feelings (Relationships).

Each of our posts will highlight our own thoughts on each of the five factors, so you can see side-by-side how our opinions stack up. Then, it all culminates in The Finale where we jointly share our overall feelings on the book with a rating that helps you find out how this book factors into our favorites pile.


The Likeness is the second book in the "Dublin Murder Squad" series by Tana French. It's set in Ireland, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book! There were certain things that felt very unique to that country, which I loved. I don't know a lot about Ireland, but I liked how French portrayed the impact of the economic boom, the lingering resentment of those whose ancestors had been landowners or lived in large estates and the juxtaposition of the city and the countryside. The setting wasn't a focus of the book, but it provided a really nice backdrop for this story. 

The majority of the book is set in a stately old home that's fallen into disrepair out in the country. The house added such a gothic feeling to the book - reminding me of the home in Rebecca. It added a nice touch! I could totally picture the home and its residents in my mind, and it almost became another character.


First of all, you have to immediately suspend your disbelief to truly enjoy this story. The plot is based on the idea that Detective Cassie Maddox is called to a crime scene only to discover that the victim looks exactly like her. Further investigation reveals that the victim was living under an assumed identity - one that Cassie had previously used when she went undercover. The detectives need to find out who the girl really was and why she was killed, so Cassie agrees to pass herself off as the victim and live her life.

The plot is really far-fetched, but the story is so good if you can just let yourself believe that two people could resemble each other so closely that even those closest to the person wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The idea of shifting identity and secret pasts becomes a huge theme in the novel, which I found fascinating. There's actually not a lot that happens in the book - it's more of a psychological thriller than anything. Personally, I was intrigued by the story and couldn't put it down! I liked that there was the "who did it?" tension without ever being really scary. That's my favorite kind of mystery/thriller!

I'll also add that this is the second book in the series, and I haven't read the first. This book does the perfect job of teasing and hinting at the events in the first without fully revealing them. While there's some history I missed out on by not reading the first book before picking up The Likeness, I was still able to connect to and enjoy the story. However, I'll definitely be picking up Into the Woods soon so that I can find out more about what happened to Detective Cassie Maddox!


My favorite characters in The Likeness were the members of the Dublin Murder Squad. The book spends the most time with Cassie, but I found everyone else very intriguing. I was really excited when I realized that the other books in this series focus on some of the secondary characters in this book. 

Personally, I thought the characters were probably the strongest element of the book. While I loved the writing the most, I think characters are where French's talent truly shines. I know that one of the reasons this book worked so well for me is because the characters - their personalities, their history, etc. - are the focus of the book. French leaves you feeling intimately acquainted with her characters, and I loved that aspect.

The roommates are also fully defined and really unique characters. They're slightly creepy and so different from the world around them, which definitely adds to the mystery and tension. I was suspicious of everyone at some point during the book! The only downside to focusing so much on the characters is that the mystery occasionally lagged. It's definitely a slower paced novel than I'd expected, but I loved it all the same.


Oh, the writing was my favorite part of this book! Within a few pages, I'd already highlighted several quotes and could tell I was going to have to read everything French has written. I'm obsessed with her writing style! So, instead of telling you all about how much I loved it, I'll just give you two of my favorite quotes.

This passage where Cassie reflects on the undercover identity she'd previously created:
“You can't make a person, a human being with a first kiss and a sense of humor and a favorite sandwich, and then expect her to dissolve back into scribbled notes and whiskeyed coffee when she no longer suits your purposes. I think I always knew she would come back to find me, someday.”
And my favorite overall quote:
“I wanted to tell her that being loved is a talent too, that it takes as much guts and as much work as loving; that some people, for whatever reason, never learn the knack.”
Do you see what I mean?! French's writing is just so gorgeous!


There are a few main relationships in the book. The primary relationships in Cassie's life are her tense working relationship with her old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, her secret romantic relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, and the friendship with her former partner, Detective Rob Ryan, that went sour after their last case. 

I found all three relationships so intriguing! I didn't know everything that happened between Rob and Cassie since I hadn't read the previous book, but I could relate to the sense of loss Cassie feels about no longer being friends with someone you'd previously been so close to. I wanted to know more about Sam - he definitely intrigued me! I loved the few moments in the book that focused on their relationship. And Cassie's complicated feelings for her old boss provided some nice tension, too.

The other main relationships are between the three best friends of the deceased. The four of them had formed a sort of family, and the way they all interacted was so interesting. This was where you really saw the psychological aspect of The Likeness! Their friendship was unique - I haven't read anything that portrayed this sort of friendship-turned-family where the individuals relied so fully upon each other.


Cass: Alright Han. This was our first suspense novel we read for Favorite Factor. We all know it's a favorite genre of mine, and you enjoy it but are a bit picky about your suspense choices. How did this one fare?

Me: This one was the perfect pick for me! I know I texted you when I was only 50 pages in to tell you I thought I was going to love the book, and I was totally right in the end. I loved how it was more of a psychological thriller with such a focus on characters. That was right up my alley!

Cass: Which was super exciting. I loved seeing how much you were enjoying it! Yes, it had a very large emphasis on character behavior and analysis for sure! 

Me:  As a huge suspense fan, did this one live up to your expectations? 

Cass: Well, I loved the writing style. I think Tana French is amazing. However, there was a little something missing for me and so my rating was a little lower than yours. But that being said, I read another Tana French novel right after and LOVED IT. Hardcore. 

Me: Yay! I will definitely be reading all of the other books in this series. I have a feeling French will be my favorite suspense/mystery author. I was in love with her writing style!

Cass: Yes! I want to know more about Rob and Cassie! I surely hope so. I love that this is a series where they tie together loosely but can be read as standalones as well.

Me: Same! I didn't feel like I was lost without having read the first book, but I can also see how the books build upon one another. I really liked that French structured the series that way.

Cass: Exactly! So what was your favorite part of the book. Without spoilers, of course.

Me: My favorite scene involved Cassie and Sam (the one character I would LOVE to know more about), but I think my favorite part of the book was the writing + characters. The mystery and plot was okay, but it was the other two elements that really made it stand out for me. You?

Cass: My favorite part was actually seeing what was going on with the girl Cassie is standing in for. Throughout the story I was like okay but what was the girl doing that got her killed??? And I was actually in shock.

Me: Oh that makes me happy because I know you can often guess where a story is headed since you've read so many books in this genre.

Cass: Truth. I knew a few things were up but never entirely guessed where it was going which bodes well for the story. Now maybe I'm cray but can you see this working for fans of REVENGE?

Me: Maybe? I feel like Revenge is more action-y than this book was, but I can definitely see some parallels / similarities. I can totally see the whole playing a part, secret past, etc. part of it!

Cass: Yes.  Not entirely the same but I kept thinking of similar things and I was like OH YES. Yes! 

Me: So, what's the rating for you?

Cass: I think almost a favorite. Because the more I think about it the more I like it. I'm just a harsh critic with suspense. But due to her writing and my love for her other novel,  I think it has to be almost a favorite for sure. And you?

Me: I'm going with absolute favorite! Although it wasn't quite a five star read for me, it definitely came close enough to earn this rating for our Favorite Factor scale. I loved it the whole time I was reading, and I'm dying to continue the series. So that says a lot about how I felt about it!

Cass: That's amazing. This makes me so happy!!!

Me: Yay for a successful suspense pick!

Cass: Woohooooooo!!!!!  Go Tana French.  You rock!!! Oh PS - how I didn't remember to mention it til now. I loved the setting. loved loved loved.

Me: So did I! It was so perfect - not the focus but still so important to the story. Totally brought the creepy, gothic vibe, too.

Cass: Yes, it worked perfectly. I would definitely say it's perfect for anyone even skeptical about suspense!

Me: Totally agree! So, I vote READ THIS BOOK, y'all.

Cass: And I second it!!!!!

3 comments:

  1. I've heard fantastic - fantastic - things about this series & my mom is a huge fan (we have a super similar taste in books), so this is clearly something I'll be reading sooner rather than later. I must have done some telepathic linking with you and Cassie! Last night I was browsing through GR trying to find a new thriller to get into (I'm still on a high after I Am Pilgrim!) and my thoughts kept coming back to Tana, so this really couldn't have come at a better time!

    Bonus points for Tana blurbing a novel I just finished! With all these mentions she's getting, I think the universe is trying to tell me something..

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  2. I definitely need to try Tana French one of these days -- I'm picky about my suspense novels too, but I think I would like her writing.

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  3. I still haven't read a mystery/thriller recently (though Cassie did suggest one... that I wound up not reading). It's just not my particular genre, I'd say. But I'm pretty intrigued by this novel! It's not the mystery, nor is it the characters (who sound pretty complex + cool), or the writing (which reads beautifully, based on the quotes you've included). No, it's because of one thing and one thing alone: the setting. I LOVE Ireland, and have always wanted to visit, and I love that this novel is set there!

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