Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith

I read this book partly because have enjoyed several times the excellent Anthony Minghella film, ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, and partly because I heard the philosopher John Gray, whom I admire, praising the Ripley novels.

It is an interesting read, though I feel it helped to know that Ripley is a psychopath before I did. Taken as a freestanding, one-off read, I think the book might be a bit puzzling.

There is a clever deadpanness to the language that does highlight Ripley’s weird disconnection from normal human emotions. He kills someone then puts on some music, while the body is still warm; he deliberately embroils someone in mafia killings, just to see how they react. So it is an interesting book, if a little bit dated, The dialogue is quite wooden but the psychology of the plot is excellent.

I realised as I read it that I used to look at my mother’s copy as a child. A phrase stuck with me, from a scene when one of the characters meets a man with a large scar: ‘He didn’t say anything about the scar but Jonathan suspected a dull knife in a nasty fight somewhere.”. Not a great line of poetry or even of prose, but I have always remembered it. Funny how the memory retains these seemingly random things and it was nice to make the connection over the decades. Perhaps only books can do that.


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