Second novel of cops in Dublin. French's previous book, In The Woods, focused on Rob, the male half of a partner of murder investigators. This time French has us seeing through the eyes of Cassie.
In The Woods ended in professional and personal turmoil for the Cassie and Rob relationship. Cassie left the murder squad and has spent the last year in a domestic violence squad. One afternoon she gets a call from her 'secret' cop boyfriend, Sam. Sam is in a bit of a panic and asking Cassie if she is alright. He then asks her to come to a murder scene.
Cassie drives into a rural area in the Wicklow Mountains and finds her old supervisor from her days as an undercover cop in the drug squad, Frank Mackey. Frank is his cheerful and manipulative self. Frank and Sam walk Cassie into a long abandoned cottage to see the body of a woman that is a dead ringer for Cassie. Everyone has a doppelganger but Cassie's doppelganger was stabbed, walked her way to the cottage, and bled to death. Just as important is that the dead woman is using Cassie's past alias as an undercover cop, the name Lexie Madison. Well, that's weird.
Good old Frank has the brilliant idea to have Cassie step into the shoes of the dead woman to investigate the murder. Let me point out that when I write "brilliant idea" what I mean to say is "abso- fucking-lutely the dumbest idea any fucking idiot would know is fucking stupid fucking idea." [More on that later.] Frank is motivated to find out how and why this woman has stolen the identity of someone who never really existed. Frank is also excited about the chance to do an undercover job that has never been done before.
Frank's plan is nutty but Frank has some pull and skills of persuasion. The woman's death is kept quiet for a few days and Frank convinces the police brass and Cassie that the idea will work. They claim the dead woman went into a coma from blood loss, was found just in time, and has spent a week in the hospital. During that week Cassie researches everything they can find out about the woman. Cassie watches multiple videos to act out the woman's mannerisms. Jut importantly those videos introduce her to her new best friends: the four grad students that Lexie shared a house with.
Cassie is dropped off at the crumbling rural mansion. Cassie is now Lexie. She is Caxie. Lexie was stabbed and almost died so Caxie can hide her gun and recording device under bandages. Lexie had memory loss so errors by Caxie can be blamed on trauma.
As you can guess Cassie has a difficult time being Caxie who is trying to be Lexie. You can also guess that the roommates are going to feel that something is wrong. But, Cassie as Caxie as Lexie pulls things off.
Not much more to say without burning the plot for you. French gives us a whodunit where the victim goes back to a house full of murder suspects. Cassie has several issues to deal with.
- Frank who is kinda sketchy but dedicated to his job and Cassies safety. Too bad Frank is also willing to put Cassie in danger, "It's part of the job."
- Sam who is very fearful for her safety and the viability of their relationship during what could be a long undercover assignment.
- Sam and Frank do not get along. Sam is a murder investigator and wants to do a regular investigation. That he came up empty handed in the first few days was one of the reasons the undercover job was approved.
- Cassie starts to really enjoy her life as Caxie as Lexie. Caxie starts going native. She likes the housemates who have come together as a family of convenience. Each of the other four have poor relations with their own families and formed a tight group since first year of university.
- Cassie has to watch her step. After all, someone murdered Lexie.
This novel and the last focus on characters who are a bit lost. Cassie was an orphan raised by an older aunt and uncle who never got very close with her. Her previous life experiences with a stalker kept her from getting close to people. Her failed romantic, professional, and personal life with Rob caused more trouble. She has been happy - if kinda noncommittal - with Sam but the family she finds as Lexie is a big draw to her. She starts to dream that she could continue on as Lexie with all the laughs, in-jokes, booze, and closeness of the house.
Anyhoo. French writes a very good story.
1. But, what about that batshit crazy idea of impersonating a dead woman with five very close friends? The premise is absolutely absurd. A cop taking on the identity of a murder victim? Bullshit. That's why you have homicide investigators. Would the police really hold off interrogating every roommate, schoolmate, workmate, and acquaintance within reach? Not go through the victim's every belonging, electronic device, office space, vehicle, etc.? Serve warrants to tear apart the house. Separate the four housemates/suspects and repeatedly question and question and question them?
2. French gives us an easy crimes with investigators who go offtrack. In the Woods had Rob thinking a murder was related to his own kidnapping as a child. Cassie has a houseful of very good and obvious suspects but thinks something else is going on. She likes the four housemates too much to really go after them.