1955. Wealthy businessman Herbert Greenleaf follows Tom Ripley into a Manhattan bar and starts a horrific chain of events.
Ripley, who seems to be running from his past, worries he’s going to be placed under arrest, but Greenleaf surprises him with an offer to visit Italy and talk his errant son Dickie into coming home.
Ripley has been spending his young adult life trying to become someone else. He hates who he is. Greenleaf falls for one of Ripley’s personas and trusts that he’s a good friend to Dickie when in fact they barely know one another. Greenleaf pays for the trip and we follow Tom as he succeeds in slowly shedding the skin of his former life.
From the very start Patricia Highsmith creates the conflict within Tom which fuels the story. I find it a rare talent to grab the reader with a pscychological conflict, but Highsmith grabbed me from the outset. I didn’t like Ripley. He isn’t a likeable charachter. He’s lost, he’s pathetic, he’s paranoid, sociopathic, and psychotic. He’s a murderer. He ruins the lives of those he gets close to. But as a literary character, he is talented which is why he succeeds.
I rarely feel compelled to jump into a series. Usually one and out is good enough for me because there are just too many books to read. But Ripley’s got me hooked. I need to see where Highsmith takes him. Oftentimes the first in a series is the best and thereafter the literary energy and creativity fade into dull repetition.
Highsmith, I suspect, won’t disappoint. Nor will Ripley. I’ll report back.