I do enjoy Tana French. Her writing style is simultaneously lyrical and languid, full of synaethesia; and, at the same time, credible and realistic.
And this, her second novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series, is a delight!
I love the way that it follows seamlessly on the heels of In The Woods and Operation Vestal – the investigation into Katy Devlin’s death in thst debut novel – was a ghostly presence throughout. But French switched narrators from the unreliable and, for me, uncredited Rob Ryan to his erstwhile partner, Cassie Maddox.
And a small detail dropped into In The Woods becomes a critical plot point here: Maddock had worked in Undercover before she had transferred to Murder. In this novel, she is brought back to being undercover when the corpse of a girl who looks exactly like her is discovered. It is improbable. It stretches our willingness to suspend disbelief a little – but then French’s books always have that touch of the otherworldly about them anyway. She’s not wedded to the purely credible and mundane, which sets her apart from many crime writers. And as the dead girl was using an identity – Lexie Maddison – which Cassie had invented to go undercover with, her old boss Frank Mackey was called in and, through him, Cassie was brought in to go undercover as the dead girl. It’s nice to see Mackey again: a slightly clichéd to-hell-with-the-rules detective who bulldozer his way into the investigation, just as he does in The Secret Place.
The dead are often a very visceral lyn solid ground point in a detective novel: they are static, they are probed and opened up and explored. Here, Lexie Maddison is as ephemeral as the wind and as fluid as water: we only see her once before Cassie steps into her shoes and we unravel hints of an intriguing mercurial – and probably damaged – character. Impossible to grasp or to capture, flowing through the fingers of each character who tries.
And when Cassie does pick up Lexie’s life, we are introduced to another of French’s trademarks: an impenetrably close group of friends with whom the dead girl had been living and who Cassie has to infiltrate. Just like the cliques of girls in The Secret Place, the depiction of Lexie’s friends – Abby, Rafe, Daniel and Justin – is thrilling and enticing and unreal and so tempting. Living with each other in Daniel’s inherited manorial house, distant from both the local village and other students at Trinity College, they are impossibly and intimidatingly close.
The other vast character in the novel – perhaps the biggest and most significant character – is Whitethorn House itself. The house in which Lexie and her friends live. It breathes and moves and speaks just as much as any other character. And its fate is perhaps more tragic than those of any of the others. The house is part-commune, part-home, part-sylvan fantasy, part-fairy tale castle and part-fortress and it looms over the whole novel carrying it’s own tragic and toxic history.
And when a writer like French has a character tell us that he heard a dead girl’s voice coming from the house, I’m less likely to dismiss it than with other writers.
6 thoughts on “The Likeness, Tana French”
[…] of Tana French’s explorations of the fictional Dublin Murder Squad, after In The Woods, The Likeness and Faithful Place. I first read The Secret Place and loved it enough to gorge on the rest of the […]
[…] to the eponymous Murder Squad. In The Woods, the first novel, centred on it; but the follow-up The Likeness, centred on Cassie Madox from the first book who is now in Domestic Violence rather than murder and […]
[…] favourites in the series are probably The Likeness for its intense relationships and Broken Harbour for its depiction of madness, insanity and perhaps […]
[…] create fantastically intense relationships – the characters in The Likeness for example embody that, as do Rob and Cassie and the school girls in The Secret Place – but […]
[…] the first I read and perhaps the black sheep in the series in some ways – or the students in The Likeness or the bond between detectives working together that we see between Antoinette Conway and Rob Ryan […]
[…] – although it is perhaps a toss up between this and the first two books, In the Woods and The Likeness – with the sinister presence of something inside the walls of the house which may or may not […]