The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The policeman looked steadily at him.

“Signor, have you read The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith?”

“No, I haven’t,” he said. He had practised this so many times he knew exactly how novelstuff would react in this situation. He patted his hair nervously, as novelstuff would have done.

He would never tell the policeman about the story of Tom Ripley, a conman given the opportunity to travel to Europe to bring back Dickie Greenleaf, the son of a wealthy American businessman. When Ripley meets Dickie he cannot prevent his own emotions overcoming him. In the end he is willing to do whatever it takes to secure a life of happiness for himself and escape his own dull existence.

He thought about how novelstuff would have described it. The plot is not the main strength of the novel. Sometimes it felt like a fairly average and unexciting thriller story.

“Grazie signor. And you have no idea who wrote this review?”

“No, absolutely not.”

He looked away. They were still so far from the truth. He played with novelstuff’s rings and thought about the book.

Highsmith’s clear style is attractive. She cranks up the suspense with the assured hand of a professional, and together with the European setting, it reads like a pleasurable cross between Hemingway and Roald Dahl. Around the middle of the book the reader feels the intense pressure bearing down upon Ripley and cannot help sympathising with him a little. This despite viewing him as a complete psychopath. Indeed, Ripley’s character is what makes this work stand out from others of its type. His multi-layered personality, with shades of repressed homosexuality, makes his motives more complex than even he is willing to admit. It is little wonder that he has gone down in literary history as a classic anti-hero.

“Good day.”

The policeman tipped his hat politely and left. He skipped across the room, exulting in his freedom. Free to enjoy as many classic thrillers as he could get his hands on!

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