Patricia Highsmith was one of the most successful psychological thriller writers of the 20th century. She made her debut at the age of 29, with the novel Stranger on a Train, published in 1950. In 1951, the novel was adapted into a thrilling film noir by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Highsmith has written more than 20 books, including short stories. Her most famous work includes the series of novels about a suave criminal, Tom Ripley. Most of her books deal with the darker and crueler side of the human nature. Highsmith’s novels are being adapted for films and television even today. Graham Greene, the English writer, once called Patricia Highsmith ‘poet of apprehension’. Here are 7 best books by the master of the psychological thrillers: Patricia Highsmith.
Best Books By The Master Of Psychological Thrillers: Patricia Highsmith:
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
The Talented Mr. Ripley is the most iconic and well-known novel of Patricia Highsmith. Published in 1955, it is the first book in the Ripley series aka “the Ripliad”. In this book readers are introduced to the suave and handsome Tom Ripley. He is a fragile, socially inept and dark serial killer, forger and identity impersonator. Tom yearns for the finer things in life but because he is poor, and an orphan, they are out of his reach. He is forced to live in New York as a mediocre con-artist. Until, he meets a shipbuilding businessman Hubert Greenleaf.
Greenleaf hires Ripley to travel to Italy to persuade Greenleaf’s self-willed son Dickie to return home and commit himself to the family business. In Italy, Ripley befriends Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge. Ripley is fascinated by Dickie’s careless attitude to life and to money and soon the fascination grows into obsession. On a boat trip, Ripley brutally murders Dickie, dumps his body in the sea, sinks the boat and assumes his identity. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a captivating story about a memorable anti-hero.
Strangers On A Train (1950)
Strangers on a Train is the debut novel of Patricia Highsmith. The story follows Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, who are passengers on the same train. Haines is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce with his unfaithful wife and Bruno is a mysterious smooth-talker. Bruno makes a vicious proposal to Guy, he’ll murder Haines’s wife if Haines will murder Bruno’s father. Guy shakes off the proposal but the sociopath Charles tracks down Guy’s wife Miriam and kills her. He then later insists Guy, to hold up his end of the bargain. As Guy is about to remarry, Bruno inserts himself into Guy’s life. Guy finds himself ensnared in a web of guilt and fear and must decide whether to report the murder at the risk of being thought complicit, or hold up his end of the bargain.
Edith’s Diary (1977)
Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith is not a conventional crime or suspense story. The book is about a lonely middle-aged housewife, Edith Howland. Edith withdraws into her diary to fill the pages with the world of her imagination, contrary to the harsh realities of her life. Edith’s problematic son grows up to be an alcoholic, and her husband leaves her for a younger woman, still the pages of Edith’s diary are filled with topics of satisfaction of a life well lived, of loving grandchildren, success and friendship. However, her life slowly starts to unravel as she starts living out a fictional existence through her diary entries. Edith’s descent into madness is subtle and shocking.
Carol by Patricia Highsmith was first published in 1952 as The Price of Salt under the penname Clare Morgan. This is the story of Therese Belivet and Carol Aird. Therese is a 19 year old, aspiring stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, and Carol is an alluring suburban housewife in the midst of a divorce. They fall in love and set out across the United States to get away from Carol’s husband. On their journey, they are pursued by a private investigator hired by Carol’s husband. Eventually Carol is forced to make a choice between her daughter and her lover. Carol by Patricia Highsmith is a story of forbidden love set in the early 1950s America.
Ripley Under Ground (1970)
Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith is the second book in the Ripley series aka “the Ripliad”. This book is set six years after the Talented Mr. Ripley. Ripley now lives in a beautiful French villa and is married to a pharmaceutical heiress. As he prefers the company of criminal males he is involved in an international art forgery operation. Everything in Ripley’s world is untroubled until a phone call from London shatters his peace. A prying American is asking questions about the art forgery operation and Ripley has to go to London to put a stop to it. In the second Ripley novel, Tom Ripley stops at nothing to preserve his web of lies.
The Sweet Sickness (1960)
The Sweet Sickness is one of the most riveting psychological tales by Patricia Highsmith. This is the story of a young scientist David Kelsey who creates a double identity and two addresses to match it. He builds a house for and an entirely imaginary relationship with Annabelle, a married woman whom he is obsessed with. As David creates an entire fantasy life after an imagined betrayal, he reacts to it in the real world. Soon he steps out of his dream to murder Annabelle’s husband. The Sweet Sickness is a compelling novel about psychopathy and David’s psychotic fantasies.
The Cry Of The Owl (1962)
The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith is a tortuous and sinister story. The story follows Robert Forester, a lonely, depressed divorcé, who moves to a small town in Pennsylvania to make a fresh start. There he develops fixation for Jenny Theirolf who is a young, beautiful woman living in a secluded house, and Robert begins to stalk her. One night Jenny invites Robert to her house. She thinks that their meeting is as an act of fate and she breaks off her relationship with boyfriend Greg. Soon Jenny begins to stalk Robert in turn, who is also by now being stalked by Greg. Suddenly, Nickie, Robert’s ex wife, is caught in a intensifying drama. Robert Forester finds himself being caught up in a series of deaths in which he is just an innocent bystander, believed to be guilty.
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