This book delivered for me in the sense that I wanted to find out what happened, and then I did. I enjoyed reading the companion book In The Woods a few years ago, so I figured I would like this one too. Apparently Into The Woods didn't make as much of an impression on me as I thought. Cassie, the narrator of The Likeness, frequently makes oblique references to the events of In The Woods. I really couldn't remember how that ended up, which was frustrating.
There is a brief prologue that is pure "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again," and then we discover that a woman has been murdered who looks identical to our heroine Detective Cassie Maddox. Surely Cassie and the murdered woman must be related in some way! She must go undercover to solve the crime, led by brilliant but soulless detective Frank Mackey. (Yes, the same name as the character in the movie Magnolia.) An intriguing plot, right?
If you liked The Secret History by Donna Tartt, then you will probably like this one too. Or hate it. I say this because I found them eerily similar. Both novels are about a group of sophisticated, high-brow students in a poor small town who are joined by someone who is being dishonest about their background. One of the students has been killed. Could it be that the whole group was in on the murder and they are trying to cover it up? Or is there another explanation? Are the students really so happy or is there a seething hotbed of anger and sexual intrigue? I even found the individual characters to match up in terms of their roles. Daniel=Henry, Justin=Francis, Abby=Camilla, Rafe=Charles. In both novels, there is a lot of description of how magnetic and wonderful the students' lives are and how very much the narrator wants to be a part of it.
It took a long time for the book to get going. Cassie waffles about whether or not she wants to do the undercover operation, but we know she's going to do it because that's what the book is about, so I was wishing she would just hurry up and make up her mind. My favorite things about this novel were the crisp dialogue and the Irish setting. There was a part about how the people of the town harbor centuries-old resentment towards the Anglo-Irish that I found very interesting and original. I feel like the book was supposed to be haunting and psychologically real and I was supposed to fall in love with the characters. That didn't really come off for me, but your mileage may vary. In particular, I really wanted to like Cassie's boyfriend Sam but he came across as a colorless bogtrotter stereotype. Also, like with In The Woods, if you want a really tidy wrap-up of the mysteries, you may not get it.
I know I'm saying a lot of negative things here, but I was interested and engaged while I was reading it and I did enjoy it. It was just that when I was done I thought, "Really? That's it?" However, at the end of the book there was a teaser chapter from Tana French's next thriller, and when I read it I thought, "Wow, THAT one looks really great! I gotta read it!" So I guess I'm just a sucker for Tana French even if I complain a little bit.