The Talented Mr Ripley

Title: The Talented Mr Ripley 51iyfcd4jtl-_sx324_bo1204203200_

Author: Patricia Highsmith

Published: 1955

After enjoying ‘Strangers on a Train’, I knew I had to read more of Highsmith’s works and what better than her most well known novel ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’? Naturally, I had very high expectations and can happily say that not only were my expectations met, they were exceeded.

In this first novel of the series, readers are introduced to the suave, charming and clever Thomas Ripley. Coming from a broken home and striving to make something of himself in Manhattan, Ripley soon becomes enthralled by the moneyed world of his friend Dickie Greenleaf. Fondness soon turns into a strange obsession when Ripley is sent to Italy to try to bring Dickie home. Ripley finds himself wanting to become Dickie. But will his obsession be enough to make him commit murder?

The story started off a little on the slow side. A lot of groundwork was laid down before Ripley even got to Italy and found Dickie. Although this helped to establish Ripley’s character and give understanding to his subsequent behaviour.However, once it did get properly started I was completely amazed! This tale revolves around lying, obsession, murder and some more lying.

The character of Thomas Ripley was fascinating to say the least. He comes across as someone who would rather live a lie than live as himself; someone who doesn’t quite like being in their own skin. All throughout the novel he lies and manipulates his way out of various situations that crop up. The whole novel is told from his perspective (but still in third person) and the other characters are just there to be manipulated like puppets by him. Basically Tom is no hero – rather it would be more fitting to label him as an anti-hero (if you subscribe to the notion of labels). And yet I still found myself completely mesmerised by him to the point where I actually wanted him to get away with his crimes.

Also, it was interesting to notice the language used. Tom seems to become detached from his own identity after committing murder and actually refer to himself in third person as if he is talking about another person. He actually starts to believe his own lies (clearly indicating his own delusional sense of reality) to an extent whilst living them.

“If you wanted to be cheerful, or melancholic, or wistful , or thoughtful, or courteous, you simply had to act those things with every gesture.”

In a nutshell, the character of Tom Ripley was complex which just made the novel ever more appealing to read. Normally to relish a book, I find that I have to like at least one character in the book or at least empathize with them. In spite of that, this has been the second book (the first being ‘1984’), where this ‘rule’ has not applied.

One of the best (if not the best) psychological thrillers out there and a definite read. Will I be reading the rest of the series? HELL YEAH!

Happy Sunday,

Saz

Whose Body?

Title: Whose Body

511lty1jaxlAuthor: Dorothy L. Sayers

Published: 1923

Not surprisingly, I stumbled upon this book on one of my many trips in to Waterstones. After reading such an intriguing blurb as well as being told it’s an absolute must read for an avid classical crime reader such as myself, I had little choice but to pluck it straight off the shelf without hesitation (more so, because that was the last available copy) and begin reading it almost immediately.

The main story is as follows –

A body is found in an architect’s bathtub wearing nothing but a handsome pair of pince-nez. Simultaneously, a prominent financial figure goes missing under bizarre circumstances. Enter Lord Wimsey (a charming aristocrat that dabbles in detective work), his faithful and sharp butler, Bunter and the competent and cautious Inspector Parker. Together, they investigate and try to find a possible link between the two cases.

All of the main characters were well drawn out, developed and extremely likable. All had such distinct and memorable personalities to say the least! I found myself becoming extremely fond of Lord Wimsey minutes after being introduced to him. He reminded me very much of Bertie Wooster, whom I absolutely love. Wimsey would have fitted perfectly in to one of P.G Wodehouse’s novels! (Seriously guys, if you haven’t read any of Wodehouse’s novels yet, I strongly recommend you do so without delay). The relationship between Wimsey and Bunter felt natural and the duo’s British wit had me chuckling out loud in no time.

“Well, it’s no good jumping at conclusions.”

“Jump? You don’t even crawl distantly within sight of a conclusion. I believe if you caught the cat with her head in the cream-jug you’d say it was conceivable that the jug was empty when she got there.”

The plot itself was just absolutely brilliant and well thought out. The clues have been scattered around in the text for the reader to find and link them up. With so many suspects at hand, it took me a while to figure out who the culprit was, and more importantly how they had done it. It was a hard task, but not impossible. It was a real pleasure to see the trio work through the cases, especially Lord Wimsey as he babbles on, quotes little snippets of poetry along the way and does certain things (much to my amusement) that only he can get away with. I loved how fast paced the mystery was; normally I’ve found that before the actual mystery is introduced, some groundwork is laid down. However, this was not the case for this particular novel. I also appreciated the fact that Lord Wimsey had a back story which provides the backdrop for his and Bunter’s somewhat complex relationship.

Nonetheless, especially towards the end, the story felt as if it was dragging on a little. The culprit was actually revealed (or at least hinted at) just over half way on the novel. The rest of the story consisted of waiting for the culprit to incriminate himself or just straight up confess.

Personally, I’m still on the fence about how I felt about the whole unmasking of the criminal. Compared to the way Poirot keeps the reader in suspense all the way through and then eventually, right at the end will gather all the characters involved and go through the mystery step by step, this particular style of unmasking seemed sort of anticlimactic and rather disappointing. Although, having said that, I understand that each author has their own style and it may seem a little harsh and unfair to directly compare their different styles.

After finishing the book, my first thought was ‘why had I not become acquainted with Sayers’ works sooner?’ Needless to say, I shall definitely be dipping in and out of Sayers’ works and honestly cannot wait to revisit the witty and charming Lord Wimsey, Bunter and Parker.

Happy Reading,

Saz

The Strings of Murder

 

9780718179823Title: The Strings of Murder

Author: Oscar De Muriel

Published: 2015

I vaguely remember reading the blurb of this book whilst on one of my many trips to Waterstones and making a mental note to add this to my reading list. I must say that when it comes to crime novels, I don’t really branch out from the classics  in  fear of being disappointed. But when I stumbled across this book for a second time in the library, I decided to throw caution to the wind and hurriedly plucked it off the shelf!

The story is set in Edinburgh 1888, where a virtuoso is found murdered in a locked room. The maid claims to have heard three musicians playing in the night, but with only one dead body and no way in or out, the case seems to make little to no sense. After fearing that this is the work of another Ripper, Scotland Yard send in Inspector Frey to investigate alongside Detective McGray, who believes that supernatural forces are at work.

The two main characters (Frey and McGray) were absolutely brilliantly portrayed. The personalities of both characters complimented each other and humour was injected through their interactions with each other right from the get go. Normally, I find it hard to like a character completely (and so quickly!) yet this was not the case at all – both characters were extremely likable. Relating to this, I really liked how Frey and McGray’s back-stories had been fleshed out. It just made them seem more ‘real’ in a sense. Furthermore, it made it easier to understand their attitudes and behaviours, so much so that I was able to put myself in their shoes.

“Ye won’t eat yer birdie?”

“Absolutely not. That is the culinary equivalent of a kick in the groin.”

I immensely enjoyed the tone the narrative was written in. The story is written in first person from Frey’s perspective. His writing was concise, descriptive and engaging to say the least. The words evoked a chilling gothic atmosphere that set the perfect tone for the whole novel.

For me, the novel had a very promising start. The prologue was fast paced and skilfully written – an amazing way to start the book. However, after that I found it to be a rather slow. I understand that this is where Frey’s back-story and family life was being fleshed out, yet some parts seemed a little too descriptive and unnecessary.

The plot was good and well thought out with a couple of twists and turns thrown in. Some parts of the story threw me off and left me wondering if indeed this was the work of supernatural forces or whether a more logic explanation can be given. Nonetheless, when the culprit was revealed, I felt a little disappointed and somewhat cheated. Personally I find that a big part of the pleasure of reading a murder mystery lies with going along with the characters and as they uncover clues, guessing whom the real murderer is. In part, this did not happen with this particular book. It turned out that the culprit was not someone who could have been guessed.

Additionally, the way the murderer was revealed was a bit of a let down. Particularly because it felt like it wasn’t even Frey or McGray who had uncovered the culprit. I mean sure they solved how the murder had been committed (which fair enough is important in itself), just not who had committed the murder. The whole revelation felt a little anti-climatic.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m being a little too harsh and incredibly unfair; after all I am comparing this directly to Christie’s works. In her books, Poirot displays a certain flair for the dramatics when unmasking the murderer and takes the audience step by step in how he managed the solve the mystery. Like I said, this was not really found in this story – Frey and McGray did not know everything. They needed that extra help, and to me something about that just did not gel.

‘I felt my gut burning at her insolence. How some women take advantage of the fact that one cannot punch them!’

Overall, needless to say I greatly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone who loves an atmospheric murder mystery. A fantastic debut novel with all the key components of a locked room mystery. I honestly cannot wait to read more of Frey and McGray’s adventures.

Happy New Year! 

Saz