Such precise writing also distinguished French's first two mysteries, but those books tended to fall apart on plot. In The Likeness especially, implausibilities abounded. In this stellar third outing, however, French has nearly conquered the ins and outs of who- and whydunit, letting her story grow out of her wonderful characters. The only weak link comes in a revelation that ties together two parts of this multigenerational drama. It's clear why French does this: Frank's new life must interact with his old one. But for a page or two, there's a slightly forced feel, the single misstep in a masterful book that works as both mystery and family saga. Frank Mackey has gone home again, poor devil, and he'll never be the same.

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