The Resemblance

by Lauren Nossett
Flatiron Books, November 2022, $28.99

It’s a beautiful autumn day and homicide detective Marlitt Kaplan has just dropped in to see her mother, a German professor at the University of Georgia. Suddenly, a scream rings out. Hyper alert to the slightest hint of danger, Marlitt runs across the quad to the nearest intersection, where popular fraternity brother Jay Kemp lies in the street, killed in a hit-and-run. The eyewitnesses all agree that the driver didn’t slow down, he was smiling—and he looked just like the victim. What’s more, the preliminary investigation reveals that Jay was hit by his own car.

As she looks into the death it becomes clear that something is going on beneath the surface at Kappa Phi Omicron, but the brothers are well-connected and pose a united front. Instead of giving answers, they make thinly veiled threats; instead of solid leads, she only finds more questions. As a college-town police officer and the daughter of a tenured faculty member, Marlitt knows the dark side of campus Greek culture all too well: the abuse of alcohol and women, the hazing and cheating. What’s more, she’s despised it ever since a traumatic episode from her own college days.

She zealously pursues her investigation, interrogating frat boys and sorority girls, despite her partner’s caution and her colleagues’ concern that her personal feelings may be clouding her judgment. The investigation seems stalled and it’s obvious that Marlitt’s boss is under pressure to declare it a simple pedestrian accident and close the homicide case. Then Marlitt suffers a seeming accident while home alone, cranking up the suspense. Frantic at being sidelined from the case and unable to let go, she makes dangerous choices that risk putting others in harm’s way and losing her partner’s trust.

A loner aside from her relationship with her partner Teddy, whom she thinks of as the brother she never had, Marlitt isn’t an easy heroine to like at first with her pig-headed possessiveness, prickly personality, and bouts of self-pity. She’s also carrying a huge chip on her shoulder from her boss’ constant, condescending sexism. But her dogged refusal to give up takes her on an absorbing journey toward understanding as she begins to see the young men as more than just frat-boy clichés and confronts her own long-buried traumas and failures. Lauren Nossett’s fiction debut doesn’t just offer an authentic setting, interesting characters, and a compelling plot, it serves as a call for change.

Jean Gazis
Teri Duerr
November 2022
Flatiron Books