The psychologists would call it folie a deux...
'Bruno slammed his palms together. 'Hey! Cheeses, what an idea! I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?''
From this moment, almost against his conscious will, Guy Haines is trapped in a nightmare of shared guilt and an insidious merging of personalities.
“Miss Highsmith…is a writer who has created a world of her own – a world claustrophobic and irrational which we enter each time with a sense of personal danger” – Graham Greene
A 1950 book for Rich Westwood’s Past Offences – Crimes of the Century meme and after an aborted reading attempt of Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley some years ago – my first proper read of the author. (Check out other crime fans 1950 books here.)
I did have a look at the book initially – 250-odd pages and think, okay – biff, bang, bosh – two days reading job done. Well Pat from Texas soon put pay to that notion. I read it from the 13th until the 23rd at an average of 25 pages a day. Each time I put the book down, I felt absolutely exhausted.
Tough writing, tough to read, she forces you to pay attention and concentrate on every word. Maybe I‘m usually a lazy reader and I only skim-read, I don’t know.
Enjoyed? No, more like endured.
Plot – amazing premise – two strangers meet on a train and kill for each other. No motive – the perfect crime.
Pace – pedestrian, leaden-footed.
Characters – Charles Bruno – slightly more interesting than Guy Haines. There’s an air of manic unpredictability about him. He seems to oscillate between wanting to either screw his mother or Guy Haines or maybe both at the same time – which would have made for a slightly more interesting book. Guy Haines – the somewhat unwilling participant in our scheme – idealistic and weak. I kind of wished he had missed that train and then I could have been spared all that followed.
I’m fairly sure Highsmith and psychological suspense and drama is not my thing, but I suppose I’ll have to try another from her to confirm. I previously thought when discarding Ripley, it was a case of right book, but the wrong time - it may well be there is no right time.
Overall - not great - though the ending was a wee bit better than what had come before, albeit somewhat predictable. I was a bit unconvinced at Markham’s capacity to assist our dogged detective Gerard in unmasking Guy. He seemed too slow-witted for such duplicity.
A generous 3 from 5
Bought second hand several years ago, possibly after suffering some kind of concussion which temporarily relieved me of my senses.