‘Ripley Underwater’ by Patricia Highsmith

Bit of an odd one, this. It’s the last (so far) in the Ripley series about a charming psychopath, the first of which was made into the film The Talented Mr Ripley starring Matt Damon. I’d never tried Highsmith before and wanted to read one of the books to see whether there was as much of a homoerotic element in them as there was in the film, and the answer is yes, I think there probably is, although it’s kept extremely subtle.

The story was exciting – a psychological thriller told, tautly, from the villain’s point of view. Highsmith is very good at getting right inside her main character’s head and making all his actions seem totally logical and reasonable, even when they amount to murder, which makes for a chillingly good read.

The style, however, is strange. The author uses character names rather than pronouns almost exclusively, which leads to paragraphs such as ‘Well, well, Tom thought, realizing that his heart was beating faster than usual. Due to anger? Surprise? Not fear, Tom told himself.’ After a while the repetition becomes really noticeable, to the extent that it gets in the way of the story. A shame, as otherwise I think I’d have really enjoyed the book.

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