Gee, I really like this writer. She takes the police procedural to a new level, where they become psychological treatments of how situations affect people’s behavior, and conversely, how people’s pasts can create situations that are against their own best interests.
Remember In The Woods? This book is the second volume featuring the Dublin Murder Squad. It is set six months after the events of In the Woods. This volume spotlights Cassie, the partner of Rob Ryan from the former book. She is now working in Domestic Violence, having walked away battered and psychologically bruised from the Murder Squad and the events of her last case there, but is now romantically involved with Sam, the third member of their previous team.
She is called to a murder scene to view a body of …. gasp! …. herself. No, no, the body of a young woman who looks exactly like her. But that is not why she is called in. It is because the ID on the woman gives the same name of a fictitious person that Cassie and her boss in Undercover Ops had created for her for an undercover job several years ago, the name of Alexandra Madison. How strange, because that person never actually existed, except as a made up persona.
Although the setup was kind of hard to swallow, once you get past that, the story becomes so gripping it was hard to put the book down and get busy with my chores! There is a group of 5 post-grad misfits who have buddied up to the exclusion of the rest of the world. One of them has inherited a decaying manor house in the Irish countryside, where the five of them go to live while they are working on their doctoral degrees in the city, coming home each day to gradually refurbish the house.
And then Lexie (Alexandra) is found stabbed to death in an old stone abandoned and decrepit cottage, what was known as a famine cottage, and the search is on for the killer. But Frank Mackey, Cassie’s former boss in Undercover, believes the answer lies in the big house with the four remaining BFF. So he coerces Cassie to go undercover back to the house as Lexie, after the police have told the friends that she hadn’t died after all, but had been in a deep coma and had now recovered enough to go home, to see what she can discover.
OK, now this is the part that is a bit difficult to get on board with. Nobody… none of these friends with whom she had been living suspected she wasn’t Lexie. Coincidentally, the police, when searching the house had found a number of videos of the friends interacting, so Cassie could conveniently learn her speech pattern and body style. [There are a number of stories in which a person, after some absence returns home, but the returnee is being impersonated by someone else, and the wife/girlfriend/family member/whatever never suspect a thing. And every time I read these kinds of tales, I’m like, ‘Oh, please, gimme a break.’ I had the same reaction to this story, too.] But if you can set aside your cynical bad self and just take it on faith, it is a great story because it becomes about the four friends, and about Cassie’s strained and byzantine relationship with the secretive and manipulative Frank Mackey, and her relationship with her boyfriend Sam.
So anyway, who IS this Lexie Madison? She isn’t Lexie because that is a made up person, and how odd that she stumbled on a non-existent person for her identity theft? Where did she come from? What’s her history? What’s her game? Or I should more properly put those questions in the past, seeing as how she is now dead and everything.
And who killed her? The local townsfolk all hate those five in the big house, there are the four remaining friends, who knows what motives any of them are hiding, and then there is the possibility of someone from Cassie’s previous undercover work with a grudge and on the hunt for her.
Containing some interesting detective work, and some wonderful psychological stuff, the book is all about isolation, outsiders, friendship, family, trust, suspicion and the search for happiness.