A shadow at the Italian seaside

Do zombies scare you? Or werewolves or vampires or robots gone wild? Me, I find the silent psychos the most scary. They could be anywhere.

This is my review of The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

A while ago, I reviewed American Psycho. Patrick Bateman fits the common stereotype of a psycho- he kills randomly and takes pleasure in torturing his victims. But what if your antagonist is timid and unassuming? Makes it all the more frightening, for some reason.

Enter Tom Ripley. He is a small time con artist who occasionally mooches money off an elderly aunt. One day he runs into Mr and Mrs Greenleaf, the wealthy parents of a former classmate, Dickie. He learns that Dickie has abandoned his responsibilities at his father’s company and has become a painter in Mongibello, Italy. They are willing to buy Tom a ticket to Italy and pay him handsomely if he can persuade Dickie to return. Tom agrees eagerly, despite the fact that he and Dickie are barely acquainted.

He arrives at Mongibello to find that Dickie and his friend, Marge, are leading an idyllic life at the seaside town. His honesty helps him win over Dickie at first, and he settles in to the life of leisure quite well, moving into Dickie’s mansion and beginning Italian lessons. But a strange love triangle develops- Tom is hiding an obsession with the homophobic Dickie, and Marge is in love with Dickie as well. When Dickie finds Tom trying on his clothes, things turn sour.

In a series of dizzying plot twists, Tom murders Dickie and successfully adopts his identity by faking his own death. He leaves his own colourless, meek personality behind and adopts Dickie’s bold manner and habits. Once he begins to murder anyone who suspects the truth, the Italian police begin to get suspicious. Thus begins a cat and mouse chase across Europe. Will he get caught? No spoilers here.

This book was made into a movie as well, with a surprisingly creepy Matt Damon playing Tom Ripley. It captured the emotions of the book quite well, and managed to fill in some of the plot holes that bugged me while I was reading the book. Worth reading, for a novel and well thought out storyline. 4/5.

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