Month: January 2016

The Perfect Murder

This is my review of Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.

I really liked The Talented Mr Ripley, and had my eye out for another novel by Patricia Highsmith. Managed to acquire this book legally online and devoured it in a sitting. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a semi-abridged textbook edition of the story. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

This book has a very interesting plot- two men meet on a train and trade murders. Charley Bruno is a playboy who has had a disagreement with his father, and Guy Haines’ ex-wife is trying to sabotage his career as an architect. There is no motive, no acquaintance even, between the murderer and victim. And so they will escape without any trouble, or so they hope.

This is more like a psychological thriller than a murder mystery. While the psychopathic Charley murders Guy’s wife promptly without any qualms, Guy finds himself forced into a corner with no alternative (and a creepy stalker).

While the story itself is interesting, the execution and pace of the novel is not great, possibly because of the editing/ censorship of the version I read. I’d recommend the movie instead, you can’t go wrong with Hitchcock. 3/5.

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Be Afraid…

This is my review of We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson.

I saw this book online (I spend more time reading about reading than actually reading, if that makes sense). It’s a short read, so I decided to give it a shot, and went in completely blind- I had no idea about the theme, genre, nothing. And I got lucky! This is a very very good story.

Mary Katherine Blackwood (aka Merricat) and her sister Constance live with their ailing Uncle Julian in a large old house. Which seems fairly normal, except for the fact that it isn’t. Merricat is very strange (understatement!) and Constance has not left the house in six years. Eventually, we hear the whole story- all the remaining members of their family were poisoned six years ago, with Constance the main suspect. She was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but their neighbours are still suspicious.

One fine day, their cousin Charles Blackwood stops by for a visit. He seems to be interested in the family fortune that’s lying around in a safe, and Merricat is upset that her perfect little world is being disrupted.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll stop there. But trust me, this story is super spooky, in a Gothic, insane way. You’ll spot the twist far before it arrives, but it’ll scare you nonetheless.

The book left some things open to interpretation. Witchcraft or harmless superstition? What were cousin Charles’ true intentions? I was curious enough to do a Google search. The beauty of literature is that noone can say anything for sure. But one interesting piece of information I found was that Shirley Jackson herself suffered from severe agoraphobia while she was writing this novel, which probably accounts for the general anti-social behaviours and themes in the book. Unfortunately, this was to be her last published work before her death.

4.5/5 from me, and I can’t wait to read her other books.

Bonus: Shirley Jackson has also written a controversial, famous short story called The Lottery that was first published in The New Yorker. It initially reminded me of the English readers we studied in school- short, simplistic, with vague commentary on society- and then BAM, it gets dark fast. The most inoffensively offensive short story I’ve ever read.