Book Review: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a trainWhat’s it about?

Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. “Some people are better off dead,” Bruno remarks, “like your wife and my father, for instance.”

As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith’s perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

 

My thoughts

I was keen to read this book as I’d recently bought A Kind Worth Killing and several bloggers had compared it to the plot in Strangers on a Train so I picked up a copy from the library.

The blurb gives you a good overview so there are no spoilers here; it happens. Bruno is a slippery character, who has a rather strange relationship with his mother and is obviously used to getting what he wants. He manages to select the perfect partner in Guy who is his complete opposite.

It’s narrative is over-wordy and descriptive and very of its time but for me would have worked better had it been shorter. I did get bored of hearing about the ins and outs of Guy’s buildings and the new house he was building for his new wife-to-be Anne. I suppose this was to create the picture of what he stood to lose; as if his freedom or life wouldn’t be sufficient!

Guy’s descent into despair following Bruno’s constant tormenting and stalking and essentially bullying him into committing a murder was great stuff. As a reader, I was thinking well what choice does he have? Bruno had set him up brilliantly so I applaud Highsmith here for her plot. What follows is Guy then trying to apply justification, dealing with the guilt and living with the fear of their actions.  This felt all very 1950s film noir a la Sam Spade etc.

The best bits of this book for me were the 2 murders because right up until they actually happen there’s the chance they won’t. Bruno’s execution of his side of the deal was very slapdash, coincidental, brutal nonetheless but very cool.  Whereas Guy is all over the place and even though he is totally wrong you’re just hoping he doesn’t get caught.

Overall, I liked the book but it just didn’t give me all the feels that I’ve experienced with other crime and mystery novels.

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

More on Patricia Highsmith here

WWW Wednesday (February 10th)

WWW WednesdayThis weekly meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open to all to participate. Why not join in and let us know what’s on your reading list this week…

To join in, just answer the following three questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

 

I’m currently reading…

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

This looks to be a book very of our time; where one click online can last a lifetime!

ViralThe blurb

When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?


I recently finished

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

I had high hopes for this one but it fell a little flat for me. The scenes with the initial meeting on the train and the subsequent murders were really good; very tense in fact but the rest of it I just felt was padding. Think this was more about my own expectations though.

Strangers on a trainThe blurb

Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. “Some people are better off dead,” Bruno remarks, “like your wife and my father, for instance.” As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith’s perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

 

I’ve also read….

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This was our latest book club which we’ll actually be discussing this evening. In all honesty, I found most of it a bit of a chore to get through. It’s a shame really because I really felt for the main character, Teddy, and his experiences but overall I found it over-wordy and over-long.

A God In RuinsThe blurb

A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.


What’s up next?

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

I’d seen this book doing the rounds on other blogs and receiving high praise. I was lucky enough to be approved for a copy via Netgalley.

The Girl in the IceThe blurb

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? …


Have you read any of this week’s choices or share what books you’re reading?

WWW Wednesday (February 3rd)

Hey I’m back posting this week as I’ve finished a book….yay 🙂

WWW WednesdayThis weekly meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open to all to participate. Why not join in and let us know what’s on your reading list this week…

To join in, just answer the following three questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

 

I’m currently reading…

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This is our latest book club read and is the quite lengthy companion novel to Life after Life. I wish I’d read Life after Life a while ago rather than back to back with this one as I’m feeling a little bogged down with the Todd family.

A God In RuinsThe blurb

A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction. Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd’s adored younger brother – but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own.


I recently finished

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

An interesting and clever book but a timeline that jumps all over the place which makes it hard to keep up in places. Review here.

Life after LifeThe blurb

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again.


What’s up next?

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

I recently bought The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and I’d read on another blog that it was similar in plot to Strangers on a Train. I’ve never read any Patricia Highsmith before so I’m reading this one first.

Strangers on a trainThe blurb

Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. “Some people are better off dead,” Bruno remarks, “like your wife and my father, for instance.” As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith’s perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

 


Have you read any of this week’s choices or share what books you’re reading?