I think this may be an example of a reputation being made artificially
Oh, there's quite a bit of hype here. Some writers (and their blurbists) mistake overblown, overly dramatic, screaming for attention prose---for "beauty." "Brilliantly evocative" was the other quote. Yes, but not in a detective novel. The characters were not that sympathetic---yet the main character romanticized them beyond belief. Maybe that was the point. But it didn't engage this reader. I still say, there were some really good passages---but they didn't manage to save the novel from itself.
I gave it a chance. I did keep reading. But in the end, I was disappointed. Tara French will not unseat Dame Ruth, in my book. Or Elizabeth George. Not yet, anyway.
Thanks for your input. Always appreciated---always right on!
The writers are not the only ones to blame, either---they're writing it, but someone---the publishers, the editors, are approving it, and someone must be buying it. Personally, I like a bit of restraint in writing--especially in detective fiction, where you want a nice clean plot line with not too much ornamentation.
Descriptions where appropriate, but not over the top. Tana French just didn't know where to stop., or how to rein it in.
I just took a peek at The Likeness on Amazon, using the LOOK INSIDE function. Her prologue is, I thought, terrific, as is the beginning of Chapter 1. That is why people buy the book. I'll have to wait until I get a copy of it to comment about her prose and whether it interferes with the story development.
Don't forget---this is a personal reaction! I do think Tana French has considerable writing ability---there are some excellentl passages that were not over the top--philosophies voiced by some of the other characters. I also get hooked by prologues and first chapters---but I did get bogged down after a while, in this one. I would have liked a little more restraint, and a little less emoting.
Not that I remember anything from the French book. I do recall a certain amount of confusion as the result of the plot twist. It was that confusion that ultimately required more concentration on my part than I was willing to give. Oh, and I didn't like the protagonist.
Actually, this was one of the biggest problems. There should be at least ONE character in a mystery that you like---empathize with, anyway---and ideally it "should" be the detective. :) A reader has to have something to hang onto, right? Some compass. But Cassie Maddox was SO full of herself, so given to describing every nuance of her own emotions,actions and reactions, that she was not only not believable as a cop, but extremely irritating! And then....that likeness business. You really do have to suspense disbelief to get over that one.
The doppelganger theme is not new---and can often be very effective. In " Brat Farrar," Josephine Tey sets up a situation where a cousin impersonates a boy who has disappeared AS A CHILD---when he reappears as a young man, it's easier to believe he could fool the boy's famly---except, of course, for the twin who knew his brother was dead because he killed him. French asks us to believe in something quite different.
Just finished Andrew Taylor's BLEEDING HEART SQUARE. This is a mystery set in the pre-WW II era in England. The book is really quite good, even if it has a certain amount of political propaganda and a final (blessedly short) section in second person POV.
Well, the last proper mystery I read was Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters. Right now I'm in the middle of a Lovecraft 'best of' collection. And making plans to get a library card so I can get ahold of a proper copy of A Study in Scarlet because apparently the version I read as a child was abridged for children. I always wondered why it seemed so... edited... compared to the other Sherlock Holmes books.
Responding to the comment about Tey's BRAT FARRAR: This is one of my all-time favorite mysteries. In spite of the spoiler, I heartily recommend anyone who hasn't read it to find it and read it right away. It makes a great gift, too. The squire family of Latchetts stud farm is so likable in their kind, restrained Englishness. I couldn't guess how many times I've reread it.