Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: March 2 to 9, 2018
Tana French’s writing will always captivate me with its realism and the way it skirts the edge of reality and fantasy, but unfortunately, it only captivates me as long as I’m reading it. When I put it down for a moment and go do something else, I always find myself reluctant to return to it, as though coming back to the stark, too realistic world she’s created is too much like returning to a real life situation I never wanted to experience for myself. And therefore there’s no real enjoyment in reading her books. There’s appreciation for the deftness of the writing, but not much enjoyment. At least, I think that’s why I can’t make much headway with this series unless I really push it or force myself to sit down to read.
Another thing that I can’t get into is French’s reluctance to embrace the sci-fi/fantasy elements in her books. Adhering to mystery standards is fine, albeit boring, so why not introduce some otherworldly possibilities, yeah? Just my opinion. Mixing realism and genre or hinting at an otherworldliness at work in the story is all well and good and makes for a thrilling read, but at the end of the books in this series, the reasons given for the strangeness of these murder investigations are flimsily explained away, often with no satisfying answers given. Ironically, I think I would be more inclined to believe / buy into these books if they were indeed SF/F.
In the first book, it’s the decades-old cold case directly involving one of the lead detectives who was currently investigating a present-day missing persons case that had many eerie ties to the cold case from his past. The cold case was never solved in the course of the book and the current case became a murder investigation that then turned to ruins when the two lead detectives mucked it up by getting their real lives mixed up in their investigation. What a mess–oh man, the lawsuits that would have rained down upon their heads if this info had gone public–and not at all believable by the end of the book. The cold case had several eerie fantastical elements to it, as unsolved mysterious disappearances often do, but since it never got solved, you don’t get to know what happened in the end or why.
In this book, it’s a doppelganger situation, or more precisely, the murder of a doppelganger. Lots of time is spent on showing the physical similarities between Cassie and Lexie, yet no believable explanation is given for the most important thing about this case–the reason these two strangers look so much alike or how Cassie knows how to “channel” Lexie and becomes her the instant she infiltrates Lexie’s life. And no one in Lexie’s life, not even her closest friends whom she was living with, suspects a thing? Not possible. Perhaps if there was a sci-fi or fantastical reason given for all this likeness, I would’ve been more inclined to buy into the story. But of course there isn’t. Because Tana French doesn’t like to give you a plausible reason. Or closure.
So, while I do appreciate the cleverness of this series and Tana French’s writing, I will always find it hard to get the books… as strictly contemporary murder mysteries. But as urban fantasies? They could be excellent.
It’s been a couple of months since I read this book in a buddy read (with Orient and Sr3yas) and I still can’t seem to figure out how I feel about it or whether or not to read the next book in the series.