The Likeness, by Tana French (18 November — 21 November)

Just go read this book right now. Seriously. Well, actually, read In the Woods first, and then read this one.

The Likeness is vaguely related to its predecessor, In the Woods, in that the main character in this new one, Cassie Maddox, was a secondary character in the first one and sometimes references the events of the first book. You could definitely read them out of order, but I really think I liked this one so much because of the way it follows off the first.

Anyway, what we have here is Cassie Maddox, a recent-ish transfer from Dublin’s murder squad to its domestic violence squad, called in on a murder case because, well, the girl that got murdered looks exactly like her. Also, the girl is identified as Lexie Madison, the name that Cassie used during an undercover operation a long time ago. Cassie is naturally drawn to the weird coincidence of it all, and when her old undercover boss asks her to pretend to be a recovered Lexie for a while to find out who killed her, Cassie’s in.

It’s not easy, of course; Lexie lived with her four best friends who knew nearly everything about each other, and it could have been one of them who stabbed Lexie. As Cassie settles in to her undercover role, she also settles in to her Lexie role and loses that objectivity that is so necessary to solving the case.

This book. Was. AWESOME. Whenever I wasn’t reading it, I was wondering what was happening to Cassie and how the heck she was going to pull it off. I was very seriously anxious about getting back to read the book as soon as possible. If that’s not a good recommendation, I don’t know what is.

Rating: 10/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2008)

In the Woods, by Tana French (31 October — 1 November)

What a great book! Just go read it.

Our narrator, Rob Ryan, was found in the woods at the age of twelve with blood in his shoes and without the two friends he was meant to be with. He has no memory of what happened, and has mostly gotten along in life, until now.

Now Ryan is a detective who is put on a dead-twelve-year-old case in the same tiny Ireland neighborhood he once lived in, in the same woods he was once found in. He hopes both that the case is and isn’t related to his, but it doesn’t really matter — this murder is practically unsolveable. All leads point to nothing, there are no suspects, and Ryan is having a bit of trouble keeping himself distanced from the case.

Of course, then something clicks and the mystery unravels, and you see all the clues you should have seen before, and the solution is pretty darn cool. I’m definitely excited to read the next in the series, The Likeness.

Rating: 9/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2007)

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde (28 August − 1 September)

The premise behind this book is an alternate universe in which weird things happen regularly − time gets out of joint, extinct animals can be cloned, religious fighting is replaced by “Who was the real Shakespeare” fighting. As in this universe, the government has a lot of bureaus to control its constituents, among these SpecOps 27, the literary division.

Our protagonist, Thursday Next, is an operative in this group who gets lured into a big investigation by the fact that she’s seen the bad guy involved, Acheron Hades − few others have because he doesn’t resolve on film. He is out to make a name for himself by stealing an original manuscript to Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit as well as a machine called a Prose Portal invented by Thursday’s uncle, Mycroft. With it he can enter original manuscripts, kill a character or two, and completely change every copy of whatever story he’s gotten into.

Thursday works to rescue her uncle, restore a failed relationship, and save Jane Eyre from destruction, all while battling the forces of evil in Hades and government corruption.

I really liked this book. Fforde makes the alternate universe seem very real with little details (an ongoing Crimean War, Jehovah’s Witness-like “Baconians”) and writes entertaining characters. A couple of times, when time-travel and manuscript-revising were involved, I thought too hard about how things could actually work and lost the story a bit, but otherwise it was great. This is the first in a series of Thursday Next novels, and I will definitely be looking for the second the next time I hit the library.

Rating: 8/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2001)

The Twelfth Card, by Jeffery Deaver (11 August − 12 August)

I picked this up for a go at a mystery book discussion group, so I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Here we have a quadriplegic detective, Lincoln Rhyme, who picks up a seemingly simple case to avoid a doctor’s appointment (great idea!) and gets way more than he bargained for. The case involves a clever girl called Geneva who avoids an attack in a library by putting a mannequin in her place at the microfiche. Unfortunately, the bad guy is out to kill her, so that’s not the last she’s seen of him. She can’t figure out why he’d be attacking her — is it because of what she read? Something she might have seen out the window? Something she got involved with earlier? There are a lot of possible motives, a lot of potential killers, and a whole slew of red herrings to confuse the crap out of you.

But it’s good. Every once in a while Deaver throws up a dossier of facts and clues that Rhyme has collected so that you don’t get too lost, but he also writes from nearly every character’s point of view at some point in the story so you’ve got extra clues floating around that may or may not be useful. Deaver gets a little preachy about African American Vernacular English and the plight of blacks in Harlem, but the story is engaging enough that I didn’t feel too smacked in the face by it.

Rating: 7/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005)

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher (30 July − 3 August)

This is the second book of the Dresden Files series. The supernatural culprit this time is werewolves, as you might have guessed by the title. A few people show up dead, ravaged by not-quite-wolves, and Harry is called in to figure things out. He is first lead to a gang called the Streetwolves, nerdy college types who have decided to become werewolves and who are led by a not-at-all-human werewolf called Tera with a proclivity for walking around naked. He also finds a businessman who is cursed to become a wolf at the full moon and who has irked the mob boss from the previous novel. Also, a misunderstanding leads his cop friend to arrest him as an accomplice, making finding out which wolf did it a little more complicated.

Rating: 8/10

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher (4 July − 6 July)

This is the first book in a series called The Dresden Files, about a wizard who investigates paranormal crimes. It was recommended to me by a librarian, and I quite enjoyed it.

The wizard is called Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, and he’s got a lot of baggage − he has killed a few people in his time, had some uncomfortable interactions with black magic, and has a pretty crappy love life. In this book, he’s out on two weird cases: in one, people are dying by having their hearts explode, and in the other, a guy who is sort of into magic disappears and his wife wants him found. The Chicago mob gets involved, and also demons, and a skull that contains a spirit who knows all about potions. It’s a little bit all over the place, but it’s totally fun. I’ve got the next book in the series lined up on my shelf.

Rating: 8/10