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The Likeness.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The Likeness

By Tana French

(Viking, 466 pages, $25.95)

The usual sequel takes characters from an older book and moves them to new adventures. Tana French's second novel has a different twist.

In her first novel, "In the Woods," police detective Cassie Maddox went undercover as a college student, using the made-up name Lexie Madison. In "The Likeness," Cassie is assigned to a murder investigation in which there is a dead woman named, yes, Lexie Madison - and she is the spitting image of Cassie.

This Lexie, also a student, lived with four roommates outside of Dublin. When the police find Lexie's body, presumably before anybody else has, Cassie goes undercover as Lexie. The roommates are told that Lexie survived an attack. Cassie wears a bandage, supposedly to cover a wound, but which really hides a microphone.

"The Likeness" teases considerable suspense from this arrangement. There is a spooky atmosphere about this household. The story takes a longer and more leisurely look at the roommates' inner lives - and at the yearnings they trigger in Cassie - than you might expect from a whodunit. French could have been more succinct, but Cassie is a strong enough character to hold our interest.

- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Rules of Deception

By Christopher Reich

(Doubleday, 390 pages, $24.95)

"Rules of Deception" is the rare version of the spy thriller that begins in ordinary fashion and then furiously picks up steam.

There's the obligatory ominous prologue: A butterfly flits around a high-security compound and is revealed actually to be a mechanical device carrying a tiny transmitter. "They have found us," a guard warns. Next meet the hero: "Jonathan Ransom knocked the ice from his goggles and stared up at the sky." Jonathan works for Doctors Without Borders and loves mountain climbing. He's up an alp with his beautiful wife, Emma, when an avalanche sweeps her away.

Later, Jonathan receives an envelope addressed to Emma, which contains baggage-claim tickets. Those lead him to luggage full of suggestions that Emma led a double life. Soon he is being attacked by strangers and is forced, despite his Hippocratic oath, to kill.

By this point, the story is close to wearing out its welcome. But the unexpected happens. Reich turns out to have a turbo-charged plot in the offing, and he begins unraveling it with more originality and verve than expected. For one thing, Jonathan actually becomes an appealing character, and the book's intrigue begins zeroing in on a jaw-dropping nuclear weapons scheme.

- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

From Baghdad to America

By Jay Kopelman

(Skyhorse, 196 pages, $23.95)

Two years ago, Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman wrote "From Baghdad With Love," the story of how he fell in love with a puppy while serving with the Marines in Iraq. The dog had somehow gotten trapped in a barrel, but made enough noise to be heard in the middle of a firefight. That book told how Kopelman smuggled the dog he named Lava out of Fallujah and home to America. This little book ended up a New York Times best-seller, and, if you haven't read it, I commend it to you.

Now, "From Baghdad to America" brings the story up to date, and fills us in on Kopelman's life with Lava. Retired from the Marines, newly married, with a stepchild and a new baby, Kopelman still seems surprised about the strange hold Lava has on him.

The new book opens with Kopelman letting the dog off his leash, after which he is clobbered by an SUV. Eight thousand dollars later, the dog is fine. Sort of. Which is the situation Kopelman is in as well. Both man and dog have some continuing issues.

"From Baghdad to America" lacks the strong plot of the first book. This one is about a pair of works in progress: The dog and his owner battling what amounts to post-traumatic stress disorder. But Kopelman does an interesting job contemplating the mysterious way that animals can keep us human.

- Scott Eyman, The Palm Beach Post
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Title Annotation:Books
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 20, 2008
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