I only bought this because I liked ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ and I actually found that I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed Mr Ripley due to the lingering unsettling atmosphere that Highsmith creates, although the ending was a slight letdown.
This novel is a slow-burn. It’s highly detailed, we can see Vic’s obsessive thoughts and although initially, all of Vic’s actions seem normal, his need to be in control and for others to view him in a respectable give off red flags to readers that something’s not quite right. But to be fair to Vic, both Vic and Melinda are pretty despicable characters, so it’s easy to want to see Vic get away with his crimes, and I feel like this is a running theme for Highsmith, creating protagonists that play jump rope with the line of decency.
It’s heavily implied that Vic is schizophrenic though I think if it had been written today, the diagnosis would lean more to sociopath or psychopath. He’s highly calculating and obsessively monitors people’s opinion of him; he’s determined to have the last word and to come out on top; and appears to be incapable of feeling guilt; and seems to be guided by his monstrous ego.
I always find the context and societal observations fascinating, in particular, how much of it can be applied today. The approach to family life and specifically married life is very much a reflection of its time, for example, Melinda required a reason before she could get a divorce. Yet the same critiques on modern mothers are no different on the commentary on today’s women; one of the reasons why the neighbours are so quick to judge Melinda (besides her compulsive cheating), is her inability to be a respectable mother.
My only complaint would have been the ending, I kept waiting for a more definite finale. The climax kind of peters out and lacks the full force expected in crime thriller novels.
I’m finding it difficult to write about this since there’s no defining incident, though I still recommend. It’s a suffocating read, you can feel Vic’s constant anxiety of getting caught yet even though we know that Vic is borderline sociopathic, I still wanted to see what his next actions were and if he could escape justice altogether.