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Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train (1950)

by Patricia Highsmith

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
It's perhaps ironic that, having read all of the Ripley novels years ago and loved them, that I would only now get around to reading (listening, actually) to Strangers on a Train. The basic plot must, by now, be well-known to just about everyone. For the three of you who don't know the story, two men meet while having drinks on a train and discuss their respective complaints about Bruno's father and Guy's ex-wife, both of whom are making their respective lives miserable.

Bruno, hatches a one-sided plan for each of them to commit the perfect murder by having each one take care of the other's problem. Guy, an up-and-coming architect with a new girl friend wants nothing to do with the crazy idea. Bruno assumes it's a deal and eliminates Miriam, Guy's ex. He then begins to hound Guy to fulfill the other side of the "bargain."

The suspense comes from watching the effect on Guy of Bruno's incessant badgering for him to complete his end of the "bargain." As others have noted, this is not your standard mystery, but it's a marvelous "why done it," and examination of the human mind's capacity for guilt and evil. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Dec 31, 2013 |
This is Patricia Highsmith’s first novel.

Two strangers meet on a train, discuss their problems and one says, “How’s this for a perfect murder? I kill your wife and you kill my father”. I was hooked by such a premise and I enjoyed the first part of the book. However the book soon becomes more of a psychological thriller and less a ‘who done it’. I did find some of the psychology interesting especially how one protagonist manages to ensnare the other and the guilt feelings of one of them. However there was a lot of repetitive interior dialogue as the author described what was going on inside the protagonists’ heads and this made for very slow reading. There were a few moments of suspense as the detective Gerard closes in, but rather than solve the case step by step he gets to the truth in a couple of giant leaps. I did find some of the characters unrealistically gullible and the actions of one of the protagonist quite unconvincing. I found the ending unsatisfying. Readers who have a taste for psychological thrillers will enjoy this book but I must admit I prefer the straight crime or conspiracy thriller genre. I think the author improved with the Tom Ripley books. I haven’t seen the Hitchcock film so I can’t make comparisons. ( )
  Michael_Drysdale | Aug 7, 2013 |
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith is another of those books I discovered because of its film adaptation. In this case, it's one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, taking turns with Psycho and Rear Window for the honor of being THE FAVORITE of the moment. The novel, though, also has the honor of being Highsmith's debut and damn, what fine debut it is.

Two men — Bruno and Guy — meet on a train bound for Texas and New Mexico. Bruno is a youngish playboy who wants nothing more than to get rid of his father so he can have more access to his mother's money. Guy is an architect (not a tennis player as he is in the film) wants a divorce so he can remarry. Bruno sets things in motion by taking care of Guy's problem.

Here, then is the big point of departure of the book and the film. Hitchcock makes Guy, his girlfriend and her family the indisputable heros. Guy is a victim of a deranged killer.

Not so for Highsmith's Guy. Although Miriam's death still comes at Bruno's hand, Guy's reaction is cold and calculating. Though reluctant to participate in Bruno's experiment, he's not against it on moral grounds — more out of a combination of laziness and a fear of getting caught. While he's not as unhinged as Bruno, he's not innocent — he's cold and calculating and perhaps the scarier of the two. ( )
  pussreboots | Jul 24, 2013 |
Successful architect Guy Haines meets young sociopath Charles Bruno on a train to Texas. Charles presents Guy with a sinister plan to commit mutually beneficial murders - Charles will murder Guy's soon-to-be-ex wife and Guy will murder Charles's father. Realizing Charles is a lunatic, Guy tries to shake him off, but soon after, Charles insinuates himself into Guy's life in the creepiest of ways. This is an entertaining, slow-burning psychological thriller that may have been a tad more shocking when it came out in 1950 than it comes across today. An interesting exploration of obsessiveness, mental illness, and the lengths that one will go to preserve their privilege and place in society. While perhaps not great, this is solid and well-written. ( )
  DorsVenabili | Jul 20, 2013 |
Psychologically creepy and dark. The premise and the characters are fascinating but I felt the read to be a bit choppy. I get that there is an urgency to the writing and, perhaps a strategy to have the prose mimic the up and down aspects of Guy's state of mind...but the flow of the narrative still felt a bit clunky to me. As a first novel though - holy cow! I wonder how creeped out the publisher was upon receiving the manuscript? ( )
  Booktrovert | Apr 6, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia Highsmithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Docktor, IrvIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm. It was having to stop at smaller and more frequent stations, where it would wait impatiently for a moment, then attack the prarie again. But progress was imperceptible. The prarie only undulated like a vast, pink-tan blanket being casually shaken. The faster the train went, the more bouyant and taunting the undulations.

Guy took his eyes from the window and hitched himself back against the seat.
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Almost against his will, Guy Haines is trapped in a nightmare of shared guilt when he agrees to kill the father of the man who will kill Guy's wife.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393321983, Paperback)

A major new reissue of the work of a classic noir novelist.

With the acclaim for The Talented Mr. Ripley, more film projects in production, and two biographies forthcoming, expatriate legend Patricia Highsmith would be shocked to see that she has finally arrived in her homeland. Throughout her career, Highsmith brought a keen literary eye and a genius for plumbing the psychopathic mind to more than thirty works of fiction, unparalleled in their placid deviousness and sardonic humor. With deadpan accuracy, she delighted in creating true sociopaths in the guise of the everyday man or woman. Now, one of her finest works is again in print: Strangers on a Train, Highsmith's first novel and the source for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1953 film. With this novel, Highsmith revels in eliciting the unsettling psychological forces that lurk beneath the surface of everyday contemporary life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:59 -0400)

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"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."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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