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    Bruno was not the ordinary stranger on a train by any means.
        -Strangers on a Train

The world of Patricia Highsmith is one in which the nice young man you ask to help find your son may instead kill him and take his place, where the cop you ask to help find your missing dog may turn out to be just as disturbed as the dognapper, and where the stranger you meet on a train may be a complete sociopath.  In this, her first novel, famously made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, Guy Haines wants to divorce his estranged wife, Miriam, and has finally been presented with the pretext for doing so, as she's pregnant by another man.  This will enable him to marry Ann and enjoy his burgeoning success as an architect.  But then he meets a talkative stranger named Bruno, Charles Bruno, on a train.  Bruno, the ne'er do well son of wealthy parents, wants to get rid of his father, who refuses to indulge Bruno's lazy but expensive lifestyle.  He shares his troubles with Guy who in turn makes the mistake of telling Bruno about Miriam.  As fate would have it, Bruno has an idea for the perfect murder, actually a double murder : two strangers could "swap" murders, each killing the person that the other wishes done away with, which would make the crimes seem motiveless, and therefore nearly impossible to solve.

Guy is quite naturally put off by the suggestion, though perhaps not as entirely as he should be.  No matter how much he hates Miriam, the prospect of the divorce blunts his desire to see her dead.  But when she finds out how important his pending commission is, and that his career is poised to take off, she decides not to let him go.  Meanwhile, Bruno takes matters into his own hands, quite literally, and suddenly Guy is implicated in a murder whether he wants to be or not.

The book is significantly different than the film, so even fans of the movie will be in for a new experience.  For Highsmith fans there's all the expected creepiness, from the threatening possibilities of every day life to homosexual undertones to the plasticity of identity, as Guy has essentially become Bruno by novel's end.  Whatever depths of depravity she contained within herself to draw upon, no one has ever written better about the criminally deranged mind than Patricia Highsmith.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Patricia Highsmith (3 books reviewed)
Patricia Highsmith Links:
-REVIEW ESSAY: THE CREEPIEST: John Malkovich as Tom Ripley (ANTHONY LANE, 2004-02-09, The New Yorker)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) - Mary Patricia (née Plangman, stepfather's name Highsmith); has also written as Claire Morgan (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "patricia highsmith"
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Highsmith, Patricia
    -BOOK SITE : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Random House)
    -EXCERPT : from  The Talented Mr. Ripley (Random House)
    -PROFILE : A dark view (Susan Adams, Forbes Magazine, 06.15.98)
    -The Knitting Circle: Literature : Patricia Highsmith
    -Patricia Highsmith (1921 - 1995) (Queer Theory)
    -Patricia Highsmith AllReaders Club
    -xrefer : Highsmith, Patricia
    -ESSAY : Poet of Apprehension (John Gray, New Statesman,  June 19, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Dead writers: Movies spur Highsmith revival (JEFF BAKER, 08/05/01, THE OREGONIAN)
    -ESSAY : The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You : Everyone is a potential murderer in the malleable moral universe of Patricia Highsmith (John Freeman, City Pages)
    -ARCHIVES : "patricia highsmith" (NY Review of Books)
    -ARCHIVES :  "patricia highsmith" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of The Talented Mr. Ripley (Bob Wake, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of The Talented Mr. Ripley ( Robin Brenner, Rambles)
    -REVIEW : of The Talented Mr. Ripley (Michelle LeBlanc , Literal Mind)
    -REVIEW : of The Ripley novels (Ian Lace)
    -REVIEW : of Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith (Alice K. Turner, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Selected Stories by Patricia Highsmith (Penelope Mesic , Book)
    -REVIEW : of Selected Stories by Patricia Highsmith (Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle)
    -BOOK LIST : "Death in Venice" is No. 1 gay novel #36 The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (HILLEL ITALIE, Salon)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : "patricia highsmith" (
    -INFO : Strangers on a Train (1951) (
    -REVIEW : of Strangers on a Train (Alexander Walker, This is London)
    -REVIEW : Strangers on a Train DVD (Almar Haflidason, BBC Online)
    -ESSAY : Ripley believe it or not (Ben Pappas, Forbes Magazine, 06.15.98)
    -Official Website of The Talented Mr. Ripley
    -INFO : The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)(
    -BUY IT : The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) DVD (Amazon)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Talented Mr. Ripley (Stanley Kaufman, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Charles Taylor, Salon)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley  (James Berardinelli's ReelViews)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley  (Russell Smith, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : The Talented Mr. Ripley (Hillari Hunter, Christian Spotlight on the Movies)
    -REVIEW : of The Talented Mr. Ripley (Tom Block, Culture Vulture)
    -ESSAY : "Ripley" explores meaning of identity, director says (MARGARET A. McGURK, The Cincinnati Enquirer)
    -INFO : Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) (1960) (
    -REVIEW : of  Purple Noon (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Purple Noon (Mike Clark, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW : of Purple Noon (Walter Addiego, SF Examiner)
    -REVIEW : of Purple Noon (Edward Guthmann, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Purple Noon (James Berardinelli's ReelViews)


I really liked patricia highsmith's Strangers on a Train. As I have to be examined by this book, I was looking for some info and I found this page. Thanks a lot, you helped me to remember some things from the book.Spain

- Ana

- Jun-01-2003, 08:24