Patricia Highsmith’s sociopathic anti-hero Tom Ripley is probably her best known character. This, the first of her 4 Ripley books (the Ripliad) is something dreadful and full of menace. The Talented Mr. Ripley is quite unlike any crime book I have read before. Highsmith uses a spare, economical language to drive the story, the horror of Ripley’s crimes of identity theft and murder juxtaposed with gorgeous descriptions of the beautiful Italian landscape. It has a jarring effect, both repellent and fascinating. Highsmith stated that Tom Ripley was her favourite character and it’s not hard to understand why. She imbues him with almost relatable motivations behind his crimes, making us identify with someone we should be horrified by. When Ripley commits his first murder it is horribly descriptive and difficult to read and yet, somehow, you are almost willing him to get away with it. Ripley comes close to capture a number of times throughout the book and while there is no moral ambiguity to his crimes there is a desire to see him escape to the better life he dreams of. It makes for an interesting reading experience.
I loved this book, so much so that I started the second book in the Ripliad almost immediately afterwards. It’s not hard to understand why the talented Tom Ripley has remained such an iconic figure in the literary crime landscape since his inception. He is a uniquely charming monster.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.