Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Book Review Club: Ripley Under Ground

Then came the stretch of jammed-together Victorian houses that had been converted into small hotels with grandiose names in neon lights between Doric doorway pillars: MANCHESTER ARMS, KING ALFRED, CHESIRE HOUSE. Tom knew that behind the genteel respectability of those narrow lobbies some of the best murderers of the present day took refuge for a night or so, looking equally respectable themselves. England was England, God bless it! -- RIPLEY UNDER GROUND (1970)
It's six years after the events of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Tom Ripley is living with his pharmaceutical-heiress wife in a French villa. Ripley’s lifestyle is supported by Dickie Greenleaf's fortune (inherited after he murdered Dickie in the previous novel) and Derwatt Ltd., an art forgery scheme that begins to unravel when an art collector suspects someone is duplicating the paintings of a famous recluse artist. Ripley invites the suspicious collector to his villa where he attempts to persuade the man to drop the investigation. When the collector refuses, Ripley takes matters into his own hands by giving the man a tour of the wine cellar where... well, you can imagine what follows.

Ripley Under Ground isn't on the same creative level as the classic The Talented Mr. Ripley because of some implausible situations--Ms. Highsmith concocts stuff that will surprise and stretch the believability factor. Still, I found the continuing adventures of the con artist and serial killer's supercilious actions quite entertaining. I'm looking forward to the next three books in the Ripliad.

25 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

The quote sounds like what used to be a neighborhood of tourist hotels near Paddington Station in the 1960s.

Jodi MacArthur said...

Cool review. I've been maening to read these series.

Dave King said...

I've heard good reports on The Talented Mr Ripley, but the remark about implausible situations, I do find a bit off-putting. Nevertheless, if I got around to reading the first book...

David Cranmer said...

Ron, May be. Highsmith spent a good deal of time in England and she was a writer who wrote what she knew when it came to locales.

Jodi, You would love it and so would Henrietta.

Dave, The first is an undeniable classic and when finished you would be intrigued to see what happened in the continuing exploits. My main criticism shouldn't detract from an otherwise worthwhile book. Ms. Highsmith was a talent.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The original Ripley is a pivotal novel for me-the others less so. I think some of her other non-Ripleys are much stronger than these followups.

David Cranmer said...

I would say Strangers on a Train, The Cry of the Owl, and Talented are her masterpieces. Plus the many fine short stories in EQMM.

sertech said...

A frequent read series for me. I wish the movies (Matt Damon's being the exception) were better.

Jenn Jilks said...

I like an honest review! Good work.
The first is usually the best, isn't it?

Thanks for visiting my review and leaving a comment. I've found a number of people who been medics, and I bow in honour!

David Cranmer said...

sertech, My plan is to watch each film immediately after reading the book. I expect to be disappointed because, hey, it's Hollywood.

Jenn Jilks, Likewise. They are incredible folks with one of the hardest jobs.

Thanks for stopping by here as well.

Scott Parker said...

I've never read any Highsmith. The closest I got was her book on writing. Ripley #1 is definitely on my list as I enjoyed the film. Are you reading them in a lump (i.e., all the Ripley books in a row without reading anything else)?

David Cranmer said...

I'm reading them in a lump. I've read quite a bit of Highsmith and just finished the extraordinary bio on her. But I've never read the complete Ripliad and wanted to do that. Up now: Ripley's Game.

Sarah Laurence said...

Your review makes me interested in the first book in the series. Proper Victorian England is a good contrast to murder.

Ellen Booraem said...

I didn't even know there were more Ripley books! I actually haven't read the first one, having seen the movie. But maybe I'll get started on the series now. Thanks for the tip!

David Cranmer said...

Sarah, "Proper Victorian England is a good contrast to murder." No truer words were spoken.

Ellen, Five books over a forty year period make up the Ripliad. The last was released in 1991.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I've never seen The Talented Mr. Ripley...the previews kinda creeped me out. But I may just have to give it a try. It's not gruesome, is it?

David Cranmer said...

There's one gruesome scene in a boat. But the acting and plot is so good it is a must.

Staci said...

I loved the movie and the twists of the story. I should probably read the book...this one sounds very interesting!

Sarahlynn said...

Really really need to pick these up and start reading. Perhaps I should just take up residence at the library until I've caught up with my queue.

David Cranmer said...

Staci, The Damon crew did a fabulous job. Cate Blanchett, in particular, was exceptional.

Sarahlynn, Life is short for a reader. Even if you live to be 102, there is not enough time for all the books to be savored.

Barrie said...

It's been a while since I read something by Patricia Hightower, and I didn't realize there were follow-ups to the Talented Mr. Ripley. I love the quotation! Great way to start the review; it totally pulled me in. Great review! thanks so much for joining in.

Barrie said...

Oops, make that HighSMITH! I have a friend with the last name of Hightower. ;)

David Cranmer said...

Ha. I like the name Hightower. Maybe I will use it for a character.

Barrie, I enjoyed being a part of The Club this month. Thanks for inviting me.

Scott Parker said...

We Texans already know a Hightower, Jim to be precise. And, yes, it is a good name.

Stacy said...

Sounds like an intense read. Wine cellar? How very Poe (in a good way).

David Cranmer said...

I haven't read Jim Hightower, Scott. But I will. With enough years left that is.

Stacy, Tom Ripley kills them everywhere and burns them in this one.