When considering a series, the first thing most of us want to know is if the books must be read in order. We don’t want to come in the middle of a story arc or, worse yet, read the second book and love it but find we’ve spoiled the first novel for ourselves. I had no such trepidations when I picked up Tana French’s The Likeness recently.
I wish I had been a little more careful, because The Likeness was riveting and, I found out as I read, the second book featuring Detective Cassie Maddox. I’m currently reading In the Woods, Tana French’s debut mystery, but I feel the tiniest twinge of regret that I did not check more carefully before grabbing The Likeness.
Both books feature French’s gorgeous prose and complex characters. In the Woods focuses on Detective Rob Ryan, a murder squad rookie investigating a murder that takes him back to his own traumatic childhood. As a boy, Ryan was found bloody and catatonic in the woods while his two friends were never seen again. He and Maddox find themselves in the same woods twenty years later investigating a strangely similar case.
The Likeness follows Maddox six months after the events of In the Woods as she is drawn back into undercover work by a victim (who could be her twin) who is using the same identity Maddox used to infiltrate drug rings. She assumes the life of Lexie Madison and moves in with Lexie’s quirky, endearing circle of graduate students, joining their surrogate family and slowly uncovering the secrets of Lexie’s life and untimely death.
Although The Likeness can be read before In the Woods, one of the reasons I wish I had read them in order is French’s ability to weave larger questions into her compelling storylines. The Likeness is a wonderful mystery with plot twists and intrigue, but more than asking “who-dun-it,” it asks big questions about the importance of identity and personal history. Each character’s past is of critical importance and some of Maddox’s past is in In the Woods. Regardless of the order they’re read in, these are fantastic stories and not to be missed.