Tana French is a goddess. Not just any goddess, but the Goddess of Mystery. That fact became clear to me early in my audio experience with The Likeness, which redefined the meaning of the clever mystery, deep characterization, and living a story. Never mind that I read The Likeness out of order. Normally that would annoy me, but French writes her sequels so that you can easily pick up any of her three novels without worrying you missed out on something. This is what it is all about people...a mystery that sets your mind afire.
Twelve year-old Adam Ryan and his two best friends wander out in the woods near their neighborhood to play, but only Adam comes back, catatonic and covered in blood. The other two children are never found, and Adam has never remembered what happened. Twenty years later, Adam has changed his name to Rob, and has become a police officer. With the assistance of Cassie Maddox (our protagonist from The Likeness), Rob is assigned to a case involving a twelve-year-old girl murdered in the same woods from his youth. Who would wish harm on the innocent ballet prodigy, and does it have any connection to the disappearance of Ryan's friends?
I can give you some assurances when it comes to French's stories. They are seriously multi-dimensional. Like every proper mystery, this one has a tragic murder surrounded by suspicious characters. There are the archaeologists that discovered the dead girl within their dig. There is the girl's family who are all slightly "off". A stranger in a track suit seen lurking around the neighborhood. The politicians who want to build a highway through the woods and are willing to destroy (kill?) anyone who gets in their way. All have a complicated story, all have dirty secrets.
But you are getting a whole lot more for your literary dollar here. French also deftly builds the delightful relationship between Ryan and Maddox. The chemistry was incredible...two people who knew each other's demons, sparred like brother and sister, and finished each other's sentences. I can't recall too many other duos that clicked into place quite as well as these two. Of course, my dirty-minded friends, we can guess exactly what path all of this is going to travel.
Another facet of the story is Ryan's debilitating journey into the past. As he pokes around in the shadows of his mind, looking at evidence two decades old, and having chilling flashbacks, the trauma of his youth threatens to destroy him and his career. In so many ways, French's characters are in the woods. It is a perfect analogy.
This mystery is riveting from the beginning to the end. My mind never once strayed, the pacing was spot on, I did not want it to end. I've read many reviews that have been less than favorable about the ending of the book, however. (My mom and a friend of mine share this attitude.) If you want a neat resolution, with answers to every question, you will not find it here. The answers you do receive may be unsettling. I have no issue with this. Life is messy, and when I read a mystery that ignores this fact, and wraps it all up like a Scooby Doo installment, I get testy.
Instead, I turned the last page of this book wanting more. So I turned to the audio of Faithful Place. Stay tuned for more drooling.
5 out of 5 stars