The Likeness by Tana French


There is nothing I like better than a good literary mystery; one that is both suspenseful and sophisticated. I love a novel that not only gives you an intriguing plot, but also one with intricate character development, and sentences that are longer than six or seven words. Such a book is The Likeness by Tana French, her second after winning the Edgar Award for In the Woods. This is a subtle thriller that keeps you reading until the very last chapter to find out “who-dun-it”. Not until then did I realize that my guess was all wrong.

The setting for this novel is Whitethorn House in Glenskeky Village in Ireland where five very eccentric, edgy young college friends live together while working on their higher level degrees at Trinity College. It is also the place where one of them is murdered. Enter two opposing detectives and a double undercover agent who go to find the culprit.

This is the story line, but by no means the genius of the book. The genius of the book lies in the psychological character insights, smart writing, attention to detail and interesting settings. These elements are so powerful in themselves that you sometimes forget about the plot. But that seems to be the author’s aim–to seduce you into this thriller.

As the story continues, there are many twists, hidden identities, dramas and mounting tensions:

In the moment when that glass passed from his hand to mine, something sent up a high wild warning cry in the back of my mind. Persephone’s irrevocable pomegranate seeds, Never take food from strangers; old stories where one sip or bite seals the spellbound walls forever, dissolves the road home into mist and blows it away on the wind. And then, sharper: If it was them, after all, and it’s poisoned; Jesus, what a way to go.

To call the novel “engrossing” is an understatement. You want to plunge into the story and be part of the unraveling.

The Likeness kept me reading late into the night.  When I finished, I had five new memorable characters to remind me of the joys of this book.

Gretta-BarclayWriter of poetry, novels and short stories. Teacher of writing at Heartland Community College. Private tutor: ESL. Married; two daughters. Live in Normal, Illinois. Love art in all its forms.

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