Book Review: Ripley’s Game

In this third in the Tom Ripley series, he gets revenge in the most twisted way possible.

When the average person receives a snub, they’re perhaps disappointed and maybe a little hurt. When Tom Ripley gets snubbed, he gets even by worming his way inside the head of his already seriously ill offender.

What is so refreshing about the Ripley series is how Patricia Highsmith expands his character with each book, adding a developed maturity and wisdom with each book. In Ripley’s Game, we catch Tom Ripley several years down the road in his life. He is married, lives in a lavish house, and has a full-time housekeeper. Ripley is well off and living on an estate in France, thanks in part to the inheritance he wheedled away from Dickie Greenleaf. Ripley gardens, is learning to play the harpsichord, and is a connoisseur of art. He’s also matured in the way he carries and out and justifies murder.

When asked by a friend if Ripley knows of anyone that can carry out the murder of mafia head, he immediately thinks of the acquaintance, Jonathan, who snubbed him at a party. The man has a serious illness, and Ripley uses this to get inside his head and convince him it would be better for his family if he would pull off the murder. Jonathan, a good man with a wife and child, bristles at first. But as Ripley works through other people in spreading false gossip he begins to convince the man that his time in this world is limited and carrying out the murder would actually benefit his family.

Amazingly, the turn of events proceed so that Ripley volunteers to help the man commit one of the crimes. The reader is left to wonder whether he does this out of a sense of guilt or perhaps a macabre desire to participate once again in murder. In coming forth to the aid of this man, the two form a kind of friendship only people thrown in the most unusual of circumstances could possibly forge.

The author uses a spare yet engaging writing style to describe the turn of events. Her approach makes the story satisfying with each new development. She changes the voice throughout the book so we can not only understand what Ripley is thinking, but what the acquaintance feels about his run in with Ripley. In doing so we see Ripley as his contemporaries do. It was surprising to see how many people seemed to believe him to be the killer he is, not merely suspecting his guilt, but believing it wholeheartedly. Ripley would be taken aback to learn that people are so very certain of the man he really is. The fact that he is able to run in wealthy social circles and carry on a life of privilege when his true nature is so well known is the true test of brilliance in the character Highsmith has created.

Book purchased by reviewer.

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