Ripley Series, No 1
2008/ ISBN 0679742298
Suspense / -Italy /Contemporary
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming
out of the Green Cage, heading his way.
Tom Ripley has little money left and is very dissatisfied with
his life. He also keeps expecting to be arrested for the various
frauds he has perpetrated. An offer travel to Italy, all expenses
paid, by the father of Dickie Greenleaf comes as a perfect solution.
All Tom has to do is convenience Dickie to return to the US and
his ailing mother. But Dickie isn’t interesting in going back
and the longer Tom is in Italy the more he envies Dickie’s
money and persona until that envy grows into violent actions.
Every now and then, you come across a book where you can see and
appreciate the quality of the author’s writing, but you don’t
particularly care for the book. This is one of those times.
The story revolves around Tom Ripley. He is described as “innocent
and clean-minded.” He is clearly a virgin and may, or may
not, be gay but still has a prepubescent boy’s view of sex
as being “icky”. No matter what else he may be, Tom
Ripley is a textbook sociopath and Highsmith does an excellent job
of portraying it. The complete disdain with which she conveys Tom’s
feeling toward Dickie’s friend, Marge, is exceedingly well
done. There is a very good conveyance of Tom’s fear as well
as very good suspense. As a character study, I felt the writing
Evaluating the book as a mystery, however, is where the flaws appear.
While Tom’s character is as dimensional as it can be, I found
the other characters very one dimensional and completely undeveloped.
I do question, although could be wrong, about one of the forensic
elements but do find it very hard to accept that no one really saw
the similarities between Tom and Dickie or did a more thorough investigation.
The situation with the letter to the father and the will would have
been highly suspect to me unless the family really didn’t
care. As a mystery, there were just too many parts of the book that
did not hold together.
“Ripley” was a fascinating book from the prospective
of a book which has gained regard as a “classic,” but
not one I would re-read or like well enough to read the follow-up