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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:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Patricia Highsmith
    -EXCERPT: ‘Avoid sadists!’: Patricia Highsmith on sex, women and writing Mr Ripley: An extract from the author’s fascinating diaries reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings (The Guardian, 11/12/21)
    -EXCERPTS: A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman: The author’s diaries and notebooks chart her early work and love life. (Patricia Highsmith, The New Yorker)
    -SHORT STORY: The World's Champion Ball-Bouncer by Patricia Highsmith – a brilliant story unseen for 73 years: In this previously uncollected short story by The Talented Mr Ripley author, a young girl struggles to adjust to life in New York (Patricia Highsmith, 9 Jan 2021, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: Illustrating Patricia Highsmith’s Literary Career: From Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer’s Graphic Novel (Grace Ellis and Hannah Temper, 4/25/22, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Bed-hopping, martinis and self-loathing: inside Patricia Highsmith’s unpublished diaries: From her carefree 20s and countless affairs, to literary success and later-life bigotry and rancour, the author’s extraordinary diaries reveal a woman determined to chart her own course (Emma Brockes, 13 Nov 2021, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Patricia Highsmith’s Two Severed Hands (R.T. Raichev, March 7, 2024, Something is going to Happen)
    -ESSAY: The Talented Mr. Ripley And The American In Fiction (DEREK NEAL, 4/03/22, 3Quarks) by Derek Neal
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Mystery of Patricia Highsmith’s Diaries: What made her so interested in cold-blooded, apparently motiveless killers? (Benjamin Kunkel /November 8, 2021, New Republic)
    -ARCHIVES: Read the earliest reviews of The Talented Mr. Ripley, which turns 65 today (Book Marks, November 30, 2020)
    -ESSAY: Twisted brilliance: Patricia Highsmith at 100: Forbidden desires, strange obsessions and a singular talent for suspense (Carmen Maria Machado, 9 Jan 2021, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: PAULA HAWKINS ON PATRICIA HIGHSMITH'S STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, 70 YEARS LATER: The author of The Girl on the Train appreciates Highsmith's uniquely sickening vision of humanity. (PAULA HAWKINS, 1/20/21, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: A singular traveller: Patricia Highsmith at 100 (Alex Clark, 1/20/21, TLS)
    -ESSAY: PATRICIA HIGHSMITH AND THE WOMEN WHO INSPIRED RIPLEY: In 1950, Highsmith went to Positano with a glamorous, wealthy young Londoner. A year later, she traveled there again, with a new companion, at the tail end of a manic journey across Europe. (RICHARD BRADFORD, 1/19/21, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: Patricia Highsmith’s Confessions and Rebellions at Yaddo: Richard Bradford on Strange Times at the Legendary Writers’ Retreat (Richard Bradford, January 19, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: Peculiar world of a singular talent: Highsmith was a great writer, with a moral vision bracing enough to clarify the terrors of the twentieth century(Christopher Bray, Jan/Feb 2021, The Critic)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith by Richard Bradford (Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires (Independent ie)
    -ESSAY: Patricia Highsmith at 100: the best film adaptations: Shape-shifting Tom Ripley, ill-met strangers on a train… cinema’s love affair with Highsmith’s thrillers was immediate, and shows no signs of cooling off (Guy Lodge, Sat 16 Jan 2021, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Patricia Highsmith at 100: How the author’s chilling stories of murder have fascinated filmmakers for decades: Highsmith’s murderous con artist in The Talented Mr Ripley has become so well-known that he is often a point of reference for any real-life killers with a smattering of charm. As we enter the centenary of the writer’s birth, Geoffrey Macnab dissects the many film adaptations of her books (Geoffrey McNab, 1/01/21, Independent)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: THE CREEPIEST: John Malkovich as Tom Ripley (ANTHONY LANE, 2004-02-09, The New Yorker)
-REVIEW: of Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, 1941–1995 by Patricia Highsmith (Benjamin Kunkel, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Diaries (Natasha Cooper, TLS)
    -REVIEW: of Carol by Patricia Highsmith (Charles J. Rolo, The New York Times, May 18, 1952)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith by Richard Bradford (Scott Bradfield, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires (Bob Duffy, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires (Brooke Allen, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires (Daphne Wright, TLS)
    -REVIEW: Of Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks (Pat Padua, Spectrum Culture)


-FILM REVIEW: Loving Highsmith (Christopher Reed, Hammer to Nail)
    -FILM REVIEW: Loving Highsmith (OLIVIA RUTIGLIANO, Crime Reads)
    -FILM REVIEW: Was Patricia Highsmith Actually a Hopeless Romantic?: The documentary ‘Loving Highsmith’ presents a new side of the enigmatic crime writer (Ella Feldman, September 7, 2022, Smithsonian)

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