Wow. I feel like I just lived this book...like I just got off a very long carnival ride, and I'm a little dizzy. "The Likeness" is a sequel of sorts to "In the Woods", French's earlier work (which I have not read and know that now I must). This story picks up six months later, after homicide detective Cassie Maddox had her world blown wide open by a disturbing case and an imploded relationship with her partner. She has moved to a desk job to recover physically and mentally, but is dragged back into her old role when a grad student is found stabbed to death. The victim just happens to be Cassie's doppleganger and is carrying the ID of Cassie's old undercover name, Lexie Madison. Cassie is convinced by her old undercover boss to become Lexie, pretend to have recovered from her injuries and return to the home that she shared with four other students, and try to determine who stabbed her. Cassie finds her housemates to be a very eccentric, close-knit group that have many secrets...she also determines that Lexie had a few of her own as well.
There are many beautiful things about this novel that raises it above the common crime story. The dialogue is clever and witty, with the little Irish phrases and slang that really got under my skin, in a good way (after listening to 20 discs of the reader's Irish lilt, I find myself saying "morder" and "shite" and "wanker" in my head!). French does a fabulous job of making the relationships between the five friends seem so rich and real, you feel that you actually know these quirky, damaged people. The development of story-line and character goes a mile deep...French spent over four discs alone on Cassie's preparation for going undercover, for example. The premise of assuming the dead girl's identity is a bit far-fetched, but I was ready to go for the ride and found myself as nervous as if I were doing it myself. It is a complicated yarn, with various side developments and agendas, but I feel is nicely wrapped up by the end, leaving me with no unanswered questions. For those of you that like a mystery crime thriller, this one is a must read!