In Those Who Walk Away, we meet Ray Garrett, a man who has just lost his new wife after she committed suicide in Mallorca. While vacationing in Venice, Ray comes in contact with Ed Coleman, his former father-in-law, who blames Ray for his daughter's suicide. Ed tries to kill Ray twice in separate attempts -- the first by shooting him and the second by letting him drown. Unknown to Ed that Ray actually survived, Ray decides to follow Ed secretly around Venice. Eventually, Ed discovers him and the two engage in a very suspenseful cat-and-mouse game in this Italian island city.
Highsmith downplays the cat-and-mouse concept though, choosing to focus instead on the relationship between these two men. The narrative doesn't become melodramatic at all though; it still is very suspenseful. Ray and Ed pop into each other's lives at the most unexpected moments, and you're always kept on edge as to what these characters would do to one another. Highsmith's characterizations of Ed and Ray become so well-developed that the rest of her characters become irrelevant. Ed's mistress, Inez, doesn't seem to serve any purpose at all but to echo what is in everyone's mind.
When I think about it, readers who have been used to the current crop of thrillers and mysteries would find Highsmith's narrative slow. Highsmith's chapters don't usually end in cliffhangers. But what sets Highsmith apart from other authors is her ability to conjure an atmosphere of menace and dread in her novels. In Those Who Walk Away, you're kept on edge because you know that something bad, something terrible but probable, is going to happen.
Read this book if:
- You're into noir fiction.
- You love the Ripley novels.
- You've imagined yourself in a cat-and-mouse game.