The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, Coward-McCann Inc, 1955, 290 pp
I saw this as a movie back in the 90s before I had ever heard of Patricia Highsmith. Just the other week I saw "Strangers on a Train," also made from another of her novels. I cannot recall how I became aware of Patricia Highsmith, but I am glad I did, because while both movies had a touch of the weird, neither came close to the level of psychological disturbance manifesting in Thomas Ripley.
Our man Thomas is more than a bit of a con man with a large dose of slacker mixed in. He has had a bad childhood and has deep identity issues as well as a certain amount of abhorrence for people. He winds up being sent to Italy, all expenses paid by a wealthy businessman, assigned the mission of bringing home the man's wayward son. Tom Ripley has lied and repeatedly misrepresented himself to this man many times before he even leaves New York, but at that time as a reader, I was just a little nervous.
By the end of the story, Mr Ripley has done many bad things and lived on the edge of being apprehended but has always managed to elude any trouble. It is utterly nerve racking, suspenseful and I got caught up in the madness of it all. Yet there is an accompanying flippancy throughout the story and I swear I could not distinguish if that was coming from Ripley or the author herself.
Truly a unique reading experience and as close to horror as I wish to get.
(The Talented Mr Ripley is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)