The Talented Mr. Ripley; Ripley Under Ground; Ripley’s Game / Patricia Highsmith

This book gathers Patricia Highsmith’s three Tom Ripley novels. A young American in search of achieving the opulent life he was denied as a child, the series follows his exploits toward achieving this goal by hook or by crook. A master at manipulation and a brilliant psychopath, Ripley will stop at nothing, including murder, first to become rich and then to protect his good fortune. The best of the novels is The Talented Mr. Ripley, the first in the series. Sent to Italy to coax a wealthy son to return to his parents in the United States, Ripley worms his way into the son’s life, eventually killing him and impersonating him. The author cleverly tells the story from Ripley’s point of view. He might be a psychopath, but clearly Highsmith takes great delight in his exploits, and so too will the reader. He is a disturbingly sympathetic individual, and I found myself rooting for him despite his dark deeds. The tone of the second novel, Ripley Under Ground, is not as chilling as the first. Ripley is now living in France and married to a wealthy woman. While still involved in low level crime, mostly he is enjoying a life of elegance and ease. Where The Talented Mr. Ripley exudes a chilly sense of menace, the second reads like a cheerful romp. The bodies begin to pile up in this story, too, but it all seems to be done in good fun. Ripley’s Game is the weakest of the three novels. It makes for an easy read, yet seems to be more a retread than to provide anything new to the series. Tom Ripley, while amoral, makes for a fascinating hero, and Highsmith delves deeply into the mesmerizing tangle of his psyche. All three novels will keep the reader entertained, but it is The Talented Mr. Ripley that shows Highsmith at her best as an author.

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