In the beginning of The Likeness, Cassie's boyfriend, Sam, calls her and asks her to come to this location, where it turns out this woman who is the spitting image of Cassie lies DEAD. Her former undercover boss is there, and he has already hatched a plan to send Cassie into the dead girl's life to find out who the murderer is.
Thereafter follows about a hundred pages of Cassie waffling about whether she wants to do it, and then studying the girl's life so she can fit in - I was kind of like let's get ON with it. Also, let's face it, the whole premise is just ridiculously unlikely. But, whatever. Go with it. When Cassie does move in with the girl's roommates, who live in a ramshackle but beautiful old house in the Irish countryside outside Dublin, the book is essentially unputdownable, just an addictive ride to the end.
After I read In the Woods I read a bunch of interviews by French trying to find out more about the unsolved mystery she leaves at the end of that book. I discovered that The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, has been influential to her. (Also that she often doesn't know who the murder is when she starts and works it out as she goes along, also that she might revisit the unsolved mystery in the future!!!!!!) I didn't love The Secret History, but French captures the greatest aspect of that book in The Likeness, which is this group of oddball, brilliant, friends, as close as can be, that, as as a reader you would like to be friends with, even though one of them is most likely a murderer. And, that's exactly the problem Cassie has - after moving in with them, she quickly falls in love with their way of life, with their easy relationships with each other, with their wonderful house - and, despite the fact that one of them just might have killed her likeness, the urge to spend the rest of her life with them is almost irresistible.
It's pretty amazing that French crafts these mysteries without knowing how they're going to end - she must go back and do a lot of editing - becau
se her books are so smooth - when she wraps things up, everything falls into place in a extremely satisfying way. I think the only thing that might improve the whole experience for me might be to listen to her next book on audio because I would like to hear the whole thing in an Irish accent.
The Housemates, shoulder to shoulder, graceful and inseparable as a group in a painting and all with the same fine bloom of light on them, like the luster on old beeswaxed wood. It was only over that first week that they had turned real to me, come into focus as separate individuals with their own little quirks and weaknesses. I knew the cracks had to be there. That kind of friendship doesn't just materialize at the end of the rainbow one morning in a soft-focus Hollywood haze. For it to last this long, and at such close quarters, some serious work had gone into it. Ask any ice-skater or ballet dancer or show jumper, anyone who lives by beautiful moving things: nothing takes as much work as effortlessness.