Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Book Review Club: Ripley's Game

Tom saw the nylon disappear in the flesh of his neck. Tom gave it another whirl behind the man’s head and pulled still tighter. With his left hand Tom flicked the lever that locked the door. Marcangelo’s gurgle stopped, his tongue began to protrude from the awful wet mouth, his eyes closed in misery, then opened in horror, and began to have the blank, what’s-happening-to-me stare of the dying. -- RIPLEY'S GAME (1974) by Patricia Highsmith.
A few of you who know I'm reading the Ripliad have asked me what I think of Ms. Highsmith's famous creation. I just finished the third book in the series, RIPLEY'S GAME, and I have to say it's the weakest thus far. THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY is a classic. RIPLEY UNDER GROUND (reviewed here) is a good continuation albeit with some far-fetched happenings. In GAME, I began scanning which is never a good sign. But here's the brass tax: when Ripley is on the page, I'm transfixed by how this guy lives, operates, and what he thinks of the most minute observations. The novel should be read for these entertaining chapters and Ms. Highsmith's masterful hand.

However, in GAME, a great deal of text is devoted to leukemia-stricken Jonathan Trevanny, who is tricked by Ripley and a cohort into committing murder. The man follows through to leave his family some money when he dies. Ripley begins to feel guilty for getting Trevanny into the situation, shows up on a train, and helps him off a mafia boss and a bodyguard. That particular passage is riveting but I just didn't find Trevanny a compelling character--though maybe you will, which would definitely add to the book's overall enjoyment.

With many fine pages worth reading, especially when the main protagonist is present--who wouldn't want to read about someone so "charming, literate, and a monster" as described by critic Roger Ebert--the book can be quite entertaining at times. But I'm hoping the next in the series, THE BOY WHO FOLLOWED RIPLEY, is a step up.

14 comments:

Barrie said...

I'm like you; scanning is a bad sign. How interesting, though, that the pages with Ripley were still engrossing. Thanks for reviewing!

Dave King said...

You make this sound an intriguing trilogy. I just might indulge myself, though these days I find trilogies and such rather daunting.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have you seen the Malcovich film of Ripley's Game. Quite an interesting film. But you're right, this is not a strong entry in the series.

Scott Parker said...

I've been interested in Ripley's tales ever since I saw the film, the first film (now that I know there's more than one, thanks to Patti). But, with this series, I'll definitely start with #1 and we'll go from there. Besides, any author who can write a slim How-to book (Highsmith) is bound to be good at what she does.

David Cranmer said...

Barrie, Tom Ripley is quite the well drawn character.

Dave, There were five written between 1955-1991. The novels are thin in nature and easy to read. Let me know what you think.

Patti, Not yet but my plan is to watch all the films based on Ripley novels.

Scott, The first book is an undeniable classic and a must-read. And then STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and THE CRY OF THE OWL are considered her other masterpieces. I (and I'm not alone here) believe her short stories are best of all.

Sarah Laurence said...

Great writing in that excerpt but way too scary for me! I remember your other review too. You do such a good job of giving us a taste even if it’s not palatable to me. Scanning is never a good sign.

I’m still waiting for cute Ava photos –when you find the time. It’s hard to hold a camera steady on no sleep.

Beth Yarnall said...

Even great writers can have a clunker now and then. I usually blame the editor. :-) I bet the next one is stronger. Thanks for a great review!

David Cranmer said...

Sarah, I'm not posting pics of her face on the web yet. I even removed that ultrasound I had originally put up last year. (It is just me being overprotective.) But this Friday I will have some shots of her cute little hands and feet.

Beth, Blaming the ed is not a bad idea... Hey, wait a minute! :)

Thanks for stopping by.

Roy Jacobs said...

I thought Ripley's Game was a superior entry in the canon. We got to identify with the victim's side and as a result understood more why Tom could not live with himself and had to lend a hand toward Jonathan Trevanny.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

While I thought your review was excellent, I'm not sure this one is for me. I get the feeling it's not too frothy. :)

Ron Scheer said...

I've enjoyed the films, including PURPLE NOON with Alain Delon. As for scanning, I typically go word by word until I lose patience and then it's all over. Period. That happened yesterday with a Zane Grey novel, which I'll be posting about next week.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the first book was kind of a noir take on "The Sun Also Rises." Same element of society, just toss in a murderer.

When you watch the movies, don't forget Purple Noon, the French version of the first book made in the early 60s. Not as good as the Hollywood version but pretty close.

Dan Luft

David Cranmer said...

Roy, Yep, it comes down to Jonathan Trevanny. I know what Ms. Highsmith was doing but less here would have been more for me.

Alyssa, No not very frothy at all but, perhaps, you could use some more grit in your diet? Maybe? For Butters?

Ron/Dan, The PURPLE NOON with Alain Delon is on my list along with Dennis Hopper, Barry Pepper, and John Malkovich's takes on Ripley.

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