Friday, January 1, 2010

Walk away

When I find myself craving for a crime novel that has a noir feel to it, I immediately think of Patricia Highsmith. I love all her Ripley novels, especially the first one, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and I enjoyed A Game for the Living, which I read just recently. And just two weeks ago, I bought one of her more popular noir novels, Those Who Walk Away, which is a very entertaining read.

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:
  1. You're into noir fiction.
  2. You love the Ripley novels.
  3. You've imagined yourself in a cat-and-mouse game.


Vivienne said...

I have never heard of the genre noir fiction. You do find some unusual books. I definitely want to try this genre.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Vivienne! Noir fiction is quite enjoyable. I'm sure you'll like it!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I've not read any Highsmith yet, but I've always wanted to check her out, especially Talented Mr. Ripley. Will be adding Those who walk away to the list as well.

Melange said...

Lovely review! I need to keep in mind some books for my challenge that I'm doing with one of my book groups. I need a Cozy Mystery or romance and since Mystery is a genre I don't usually read, I wanted to choose that one. Would you consider this a cozy mystery?

Peter S. said...

@A Bookshelf Monstrosity: Her Ripley novels are the best!

@Melange: Yes, it is!

Anonymous said...

I am yet to read any Highsmith and have a few of hers so maybe that should be a resolution for me. Lovely review Peter.

Peter S. said...

Thanks, Simon! You should start with the Ripley novels, which are still her best work!

Anonymous said...

I've never read her, but it looks like maybe I should start with The Talented Mr. Ripley?

Peter S. said...

Hi, Stacy! Yes, that's the best novel to start. It's very enjoyable.