A young female detective goes undercover, impersonating a dead woman who looks just like her, in order to solve the woman's murder. Detective Cassie Murdoch, a young woman who has recently switched from the Murder Squad to Domestic Violence, is called to help investigate the murder of a woman who resembles her and has been using identification from one of the detectives previous undercover jobs.
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Cassie receives a call from Detective Sam O'Neil who is her new colleague and boyfriend. Sounding shaken, Sam asks Cassie to come immediately to a crime scene at an abandoned building in the country. When Cassie arrives, she understands what alarmed Sam. The body of a young woman who looks almost exactly like Cassie has been found. Sam tells Cassie he at first thought it was her and is glad to see that Cassie is all right.
Cassie is amazed and confused at the striking resemblance. The detectives find identification on the young woman in the name of Lexie Madison. That I.D. belonged to Cassie herself, years ago, when she worked other undercover jobs. Cassie and her coworkers cannot figure out who the young woman actually is or how she obtained this I.D. The detective learn that the dead woman lived very nearby, in an old mansion, with four young friends. Chief Fred Mackey asks everyone working on the case not to release the information that the woman is dead. Mackey asks Cassie to go undercover and return to the dead woman's home and try to get information to solve her murder. Cassie thinks at first that the idea is crazy and she hesitates to take time away from her new position working on domestic violence cases to go back to working undercover. But Cassie herself is very curious about who this woman, known to her housemates as "Lexie," really is and why she was killed. Cassie spends a bit of time researching in town records to find out if there is any possible way the young woman could be a relative Cassie was not aware of, but finding no answer, she agrees to Mackey's highly unusual plan.
Officers go to Lexi's house and talk to her friends. They tell her friends that she was badly injured and cannot have visitors dues to the investigation but can return home soon. The officers also warn Lexie's friends that she has amnesia and does not remember anything that happened when she was attacked. Sam and Cassie know it is likely one of Lexie's friends was involved in her murder or has information and they believe Cassie will be safer in her undercover role if her friends believe she does not know who harmed her. The amnesia story will also make it much easier for Cassie's inevitable confusion when living Lexie's life not to set of alarm bells. After studying photographs of Lexie and attempting to match her hairstyle and expressions, Lexis is escorted "home" by the police.
Lexie's housemates welcome her back and do not seem to notice that she is actually Cassie. Cassie is very nervous about being discovered and constantly looks over her shoulder, second guessing her own every step. Slowly she begins to get to know each of the four friends. Cassie tries to tease out information about Lexie's life by claiming that the attack has affected her memory quite a bit and that all her memories are spotty. One male friend seems eager to get Lexie alone and acts flirtatiously, so Cassie as Lexie responds with a kiss, figuring the two must have been involved before Lexie's death.
At night Cassie often tells her housemates she wants to take a walk, and sneaks out to sit in a tree at the driveway and telephone Sam. The tree gives her a good vantage point to watch for suspicious characters, in case Lexie's attacker returns to the scene of the crime. Lexie's housemates tell Cassie that she went for a lot of these walks at night before her attack as well, and allude to Lexie's mysterious past.
Cassie's thoughts and feelings change day to day. At times she likes her new friends and feels happy in Lexie's life, even fantasizing about staying on in the ramshackle house. She suspects that an ex-lover of Lexie's may be responsible for her death. At other times she senses growing menace in the house and catches strange looks and whispered secrets. Cassie misses Sam but finds herself unable to commit to him, in part because she has lingering feelings about her ex-partner Rob and is afraid to get hurt. Cassie wonders if she is hiding from her own life by living Lexie's.
During her stay in the house, Cassie has planted listening devices in many rooms so that the police can monitor all conversations and thus rush to the scene if she is in danger. Cassie uncovers more and more small bits of information but is not sure what they add up to. She discovers that the friend who originally owned the big house has put all the housemates name on the title and that an agreement was made that they would all live together indefinitely. If any one housemate should decide to leave, the house would be sold. Cassie discovers that Lexie seemed to have been considering leaving.
Cassie is becoming closer to the housemate she kissed. One ay when they are alone, he reveals that he knows she is an imposter. Her kiss tipped him off, he said, because the real Lexie was more of a game-player, always flirting, then backing off. He now has feelings for Cassie but wants to know who she is and what is going on. Cassie is torn. she feels some misplaced loyalty toward him as a real friendship has grown and she does not think he hurt Lexie. But Cassie must also focus on the investigation and protect herself. She tells her friend that the house is bugged and who she really is. He allows her undercover project to continue and seems to be helping her get information.
Little by little, Cassie learns the sad truth that not one, but all of the housemates participated in Lexie's murder in one way or another. Cassie learns that Lexie did indeed try to leave the living arrangement and met with strong resistance. On a night when the housemates had been drinking a physical fight began and Lexie, injured, ran out of the house. A different angry housemate followed her and hurt her more seriously. Still another housemate found her unconscious and instead of getting help, left her in the cold night, injured and alone, where she froze to death.
Cassie feels drained and overwhelmed at the end of the investigation. She never finds out who Lexie really was, why they look alike or how Lexie found her identification.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the romantic and mysterious atmosphere of this story. The setting of the house in the woods and the intriguing friends who lived there drew me into a fantasy world.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was shortly after Cassie begins to live life as Lexie, when she sits on a swing in the woods near the house with a housemate she barely knows but ends up kissing. It was her first really intense moment of trying to pull off her disguise and I could feel that she did not know if she was about to be exposed or killed. This gave the scene a very eerie feel.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Cassie Maddox in this because I found her very relatable. Even in the most unusual, intense situation imaginable, Cassie was still vulnerable to very ordinary thoughts and feelings about her own past and present love life, and she was not able to keep her guard entirely up around the people she was investigating, but instead began to care for them, even as she feared them.