Review of ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ by Patricia Highsmith

Who is Mr Ripley and what are his talents? In this classic thriller novel, first published in 1955, we follow a few months in the life of Tom Ripley, a con artist and murderer. It’s not a spoiler to say he’s a murderer – it was on the back of the book cover!

Book cover of The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I know that a lot of readers enjoyed this book. I’m not one of them. The pace was too slow for me and there were so many uninteresting details. The concept is very good and in a number of ways was unusual for the era. Tom is a closeted gay man and I think the text is partly a commentary on repression. Most of the story is set in Italy, which is a laidback contrast to the emotional turmoil in Tom’s mind. A thriller in which the protagonist is a murderer and gets away with it is still quite a modern idea today. What’s even more interesting is how the author has you rooting for Tom, even though he behaves abominably. I would have liked more background on him and more development of the other main characters, Dickie and Marge.

Having mixed opinions of this book and of Highsmith’s last work, small g, I’m not convinced her work is for me, but I’m open to trying one more.

This edition published by Vintage, 1999.

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