Written by: Tana French
Book #2 / 5 of the Dublin Murder Squad series
Review: 3 / 5 stars
Summary (a la Goodreads): Six months after the events of In the Woods, an urgent telephone call beckons detective Cassie Maddox to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who she is.
“There’s a Spanish proverb that’s always fascinated me. ‘Take what you want and pay for it, says God.’ … What could be simpler, or more crucial? You can have anything you want, as long as you accept that there is a price and that you will have to pay it.”
Review: I really, really wanted to love this book as much as I loved its predecessor, In the Woods. I wanted another gritty Irish crime novel that showed the underbelly of the people we normally think of heroes – the detectives – and it went in an entirely different direction. Although it does follow the better half of the duo from In the Woods, Cassie Maddox, the fact that she’s undercover left me hoping that we would find out more about her previous experiences working under assumed identities and see more of the wit she showed with Rob and Sam in the first book. However, after the events of ITW, Cassie is found by the reader, not being able to cope properly – she leaves the Murder Squad, settles for a suit and desk job in a different department, compares every little thing to her ex-partner, and more. So when the opportunity arises to go live someone else’s life, a life she previously owned before In the Woods, she grabs it almost without a second thought, showing in a twisted way just how much Cassie wants to her escape her current life.
Tana French still amazes me to this day with what an incredible writer she is. It’s crazy to me that although I consider Ireland and the States to be relatively similar, that there are still so many differences between our countries – like for the fact that you’d have to take a boat to England to get a legal abortion, for instance. Even on a more micro scale, I come from Overpopulated Suburbia and currently live in a college town, so I’ve never really experienced that gritty, small town, everybody-knows-everybody-and-holds-centuries-old-grudges feeling that French creates in the small town of Glenskehy, where the story takes place, but French put me right there by describing the elite Whitehorn house on the hill, the dilapidated buildings downtown, the crushing economic crisis, and the embittered citizens all around. All of this suggested, in the middle of a rather crazy plotline of murder and dopplegangers, that perhaps the story itself had a much more “normal” origin, and somehow, this twist made the story somehow more intriguing. Even more so, French touched on a little bit of Irish history but kept it relevant with the story, and did so in such an incredible manner that I almost didn’t notice I was getting a lesson at the same time.
Although Cassie is brilliant and badass, you find yourself forgetting at times that you’re not reading about her as Cassie, but rather her as Lexie, her counterpart. Sometimes French is able to pull this off perfectly, but other times, it just reads as sad as you realize that Cassie is beginning to become and want to become Lexie instead of herself. I had a lot of questions about Cassie that French still has not, and properly never will, answer, and although this seems to be a recurring theme for French’s main character, it leaves a little to be desired. However, this was redeemed by the amazing, complex, and largely unexplored side characters of Frank, her boss at Undercover, and the denizens of the Whitehorn house, the university students she is trying so hard to convince that she is someone else. In typical Dublin Murder Squad fashion, the next book in the series about the Frank, and I am psyched to read it, as he reads like every old cop with an unparalleled sense of cunning – embittered by a divorce and subsequent lost of custody caused by his loyalty to the job, drunk arrivals at work every morning, and a strong sense of “the gut”. All of his badassery makes up for what Cassie seems to lack in this novel, which I suppose is notable and acceptable considering everything that happened to her in the previous book. As for the members of the Whitehorn house – Daniel, Justin, Abby, and Rafe – just… wow. French wrote them so beautifully that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hug them or punch them, and I think the nostalgia and completeness Cassie feels when she pretends to be one of them is even more poignant following her fractured relationship with Rob. Each individual of the Whitehorn house has their own tics, loves, hates like any human, but they’re explicitly detailed in this book as Cassie begins to learn what she needs to know for her job, and it made them so much more relatable and readable.
That all being said… the book as a whole just kind of fell flat for me. Although the side characters were amazing, French’s quality of writing was on point usual, and the plot itself moved relatively quickly, the ending was so dissatisfying. I had guessed relatively early in the book a primitive idea of what had happened, and it turned out that I was right. Although French introduced several intriguing potential endings that probably would have been more interesting in the long run had they been delved into properly, the one ending she did choose left me flipping back and forth between the pages to make sure I hadn’t missed some other huge revelation between the lines. Additionally, I felt like the ending itself was rather rushed, and the fallout of the events is never really discussed, which I would have loved to see in the aftermath of the storm. Otherwise, it kind of just read as another crime novel to me – nothing too notable, but nothing awful either. I still can’t wait to pick up Faithful Place next though, in hopes that French will redeem herself through Frank’s story.