The only people who will enjoy this kind of book are the people who will be fascinated by Patricia Highsmith the author and her creation of "Highsmith Country". But for my tastes, it's a needlessly nasty world and I have no intention of ever returning to it.
Guy Haines is, to use a childish term, a sissy. Here the moron gets letters from Bruno—handwritten, presumably signed letters, which probably have fingerprints all over the place!!!—which map out a proposed murder, tell Guy what to do, give tips on how to escape the murder scene, etc. Bruno even sends him a gun!!! And what does our hero do, ladies and gentlemen? Surely he would call the police, for presumably, coercion into murder was illegal in the 1950s, even if there were no laws against stalkers? Heck, no! He does the only reasonable thing: destroy the evidence!No question of it: Guy Haines wins the Darwin Award for 1950. The entire novel is a situation of Guy’s own making. You can make the argument that it makes for a compelling character study, an allegorical novel of good and evil within each man. I make the argument that Guy is a moron. Here he is with physical proof that Bruno has killed his wife and is trying to get him to commit a murder—he’s in the position of strength! Instead, he destroys the evidence and then whines about how his guilt haunts him. In the Hitchcock film, Guy had a reason for being frightened of Bruno, who was capable of framing Guy by planting false evidence and threatened to do so, leaving nothing behind for Guy to use against him. The movie Guy is a likeable hero, caught in a perilous situation. The book Guy? I say he can go straight to that not-so-great-place-opposite-of-heaven.In the Hitchcock film, Bruno at first seems to be a charming fellow, and his proposed murder scheme sounds like a joke. That’s how Guy and the audience choose to take it at first, and that makes the murder shocking. But in the novel, Bruno is an obvious psychopath—you can spot his insanity at twenty paces. He’s never charming—he’s an annoying little brat. You have no idea why Guy would have a conversation with him in the first place. Not even Guy understands it, although he’s the one who follows Bruno to his compartment in the train and they have dinner together. When Bruno demands that Guy commit his murder, it isn’t the demand of a dangerous murderer but the petulant tantrum of a spoiled child. I had a hard time finding the suspense that is supposed to permeate this novel.And the book, incidentally, drags on and on AND ON!!! The pace is snail-like and gets extremely boring. After the two murders are committed, you simply have no idea why Guy and Bruno would keep seeing each other. No wait—if they didn’t see each other you couldn’t have any obvious SYMBOLISM!!! The entire novel feels like the author is trying to write Literature with a capital L, but she doesn’t succeed.Strangers on a Train became a nasty story about nasty characters being nasty to each other for no reason other than “the plot says so”. Oh, and Bruno? Not only is he an obsessive homosexual with clear mental issues, he’s also in love with his mother. (How does that work???)I didn’t like either of the two male leads, and nobody else is worth talking about. Patricia Highsmith was not a happy person, and it shows in this book. But instead of making me interested in her characters, this aspect made me want to get them all in a secluded alleyway and open fire on them with a tommy gun.
No I haven't, so I will only comment on the narration of this book alone. I did not bother continuing past STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, narrated by Bronson Pinchot. His performance is excellent but unfortunately the material itself is terrible. The narration manages to make the novel bearable, however, but I simply couldn't proceed any further with the stories. It's no fault of the narrator's.
Anger certainly, at the author and her insipid characters. Perhaps some disappointment because I was hoping to enjoy the book. But apart from that, once all is said and done... I was left indifferent.
Perhaps the other stories and novels in this collection are worthwhile, but I couldn't get past the first. Patricia Highsmith is an "acquired taste"-- meaning one that some people will never acquire!
The book itself is fine. The story is perfectly decent. There are some problems, but nothing too terrible, and if you're open to the idea you'll probably enjoy it.
... Just stay away from this audiobook. This one officially wins the award for the worst audiobook I've *ever* heard. And I'm not exaggerating here. We're talking Ed Wood levels of incompetence. Not one thing went right.
Technically, it's pretty bad. You can oftentimes clearly hear jazz/swing music in the background. (Is it from the other side of a cassette tape??? If so, why is there jazz on the other side???) It's incompetently slapped together-- you can tell exactly where the sound engineers made a cut and threw in a new audio clip. At completely random moments, a character's dialogue will be enhanced with an echo, and I never saw any rhyme or reason to this choice. Is it only done in an echo-ey room? Nope, because while we stay in that room of the house the conversation suddenly becomes normal again. It can even happen in the middle of a conversation that has been entirely normal until now! It's basically a moment where the sound crew gets to go "Surprise!" before resuming business as usual.
And the narrator? My goodness, he does not get one single inflection right. Not one single word made me believe any of this was going on. His voices for the various characters are barely differentiable, and he has the same laugh for *everyone*! Whether surprised, pleased, or diabolical, it's the same cackle and it gets irritating. Not only that, he ploughs through his words so quickly that you barely get the time to process his information.
In short, it was a fascinatingly terrible audiobook. I listened spellbound before turning it off and reading the book for myself. If you want to read this book, please conserve your sanity and stay away from this audio production.
Yes, I would. It's a terrific book with excellent characters and is also a very good detective story. It proposes an interesting "impossible" crime -- the kind of crime where it seems nobody could have done it -- and while I was busy looking to the left, the book sneaks its solution from the right, only to surprise me when I turned my head around. While not the most ingenious locked-room problem I've ever read -- for that, we'd need to turn to John Dickson Carr -- it's excellent as is.
Sabina Carpenter was a terrific character. I really liked how she keeps coming across women who have been abandoned by society -- widows, the elderly, mothers, etc. left to fend for themselves. A free spirit by nature, Sabina sympathizes with these women and tries everything in her power to help them, giving them the kindness and support that they desperately need.
I preferred Nick Sullivan's narration, because the Sherlock Holmes impression is uncanny. It sounds like he's channeling Basil Rathbone from those old radio shows, and it's a blast to listen to. Meredith Mitchell does a terrific job with the female characters, but when she reads the "bughouse Sherlock"'s lines, the English accent was unconvincing.
Well, I loved it -- does that count as extreme? It combines an interesting time period and a great detective duo with a tricky plot. The clues are all there and the reader is on equal footing with the detective. There’s a good locked room mystery. The historical colour is terrific. Sherlock Holmes sort-of shows up as a crazy Limey who calls himself Sherlock Holmes, but it couldn't possibly be Holmes because he fell over the Reichenbach Falls, right? (It's a very fun little parody.)
It’s a delicious book and a promising start to the series’ incarnation as novels -- Bill Pronzini previously wrote some short stories with these characters, but this is the first novel and the first collaboration with his wife Marcia Muller. It was a very enjoyable, entertaining book. Here’s hoping they continue!
I have no idea; I didn't buy the print version. I just bought the audiobook edition. But the performance is absolutely wonderful and really brings the various characters to life. So if you have a job that gives you plenty of room for audiobooks, like I do, this is a great option.
Not in the same way as, say, an action movie, but yes it did. It was an engaging battle of wits where you know who the killer is but not how it was done.
It was an all-round excellent job, with the characters really coming to life.
Yes, there were several such moments, but there we wander into spoiler territory.
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