Tana French and the Trinity murderthe likeness
By Tana French
(Hachette Ireland, €14.99)
Tana French's first thriller In the Woods was a big hit here last year and is now riding high in the New York Times paperback bestseller list. It has also won an Edgar Award, which she is eligible for since she was born in the US.
The former Trinity College drama student and actress, pictured left, has now produced her second book and its intriguing, multi-layered plot and beautifully drawn characters probably mean it is headed for similar accolades and a place in the bestseller list here and in the US.
Detective Cassie Maddox was once an undercover cop who infiltrated a Dublin drugs ring. But that was before she was stabbed and lost her nerve. A phone call from her boyfriend, Murder Squad Detective Sam O'Neill, suddenly brings her fake past crashing violently into her present.
A young graduate student in Trinity College has been found stabbed to death in a ruined Wicklow cottage close to Whitethorn House, a crumbling Anglo-Irish mansion she'd been sharing with four other Trinity students.
Cassie is shocked to find that the dead girl looks exactly like her. It is as if she was looking into a mirror. Even more shocking is the name on the girl's college identity card, Alexandra "Lexie" Madison, the name Cassie and her former boss, Frank Mackey had invented when she was going undercover. There isn't a single clue as to who killed the new Lexie Madison, or who she really is. Her housemates, Anglo-Irish owner Daniel March, Justin Mannering, Raphael Hyland and Abigail Stone, have mutual alibis. Frank Mackie then suggests the unthinkable. They will say that the young woman survived the knifing and, after a week or so, Cassie will go undercover again and rejoin the group and become a sacrificial lamb for whoever wanted Lexie dead.
She'll be armed and will be wearing a tiny radio mike at all times and Frank's team will only be minutes away if there is trouble.
With some misgivings, Cassie agrees.
Once inside Whitethorn House, Cassie discovers that there's a close bond of affection and interdependence between all its inhabitants, including her.
Feigning memory loss to cover any mistakes she makes, she soon becomes the old Lexie they all knew and, while always working hard to unpeel the layers of the mystery that surrounds each (the one house rule is never to talk about their pasts), finds herself being drawn into the easy intimacy the other four share.
As tensions and underlying cracks in the relationships are gradually exposed, Cassie begins to fear there may be a violent end to her strange involvement with Whitethorn House.
Tana French writes with elegance and insight, and effortlessly screws the tension up, notch by notch.
The Likeness, with its bold premise, is a brilliant thriller, beautifully written.