I came across this book at a bookstore's clearance sale and bought it on a whim, for which I was afterwards very grateful. This is a comprehensive collection of lively, varied stories, each one worth reading. Each is a snapshot of reality as insightful as an Edward Hopper painting, delicious for its voyeuristic glimpse into a life, often a life's last moments.
The book is proof positive of Highsmith's abilities in terms of writing from different prespectives, telling stories as a man, a woman, a young person or a middle-aged one, an American or a European. Everyone will have a different favourite here; pressed to choose, I would not agree with the choice of Mr Ingendaay, who wrote the afterword, but rather select one of the very last stories in the book, "Things had gone badly", for its implicit conclusions about how banal everyday obligations can destroy artistic creativity. "A Girl Like Phyl" is another one of the prizewinners here, an insightful reflection on the harm that can be done by letting idealised memories of an unsuccessful relationship become a fallacious yardstick for measuring other relationships. Just a few of the stories are underdeveloped, staying at the level of character sketches, but this is compensated for by the ingenious ideas that gave rise to other stories, such as the collector of counterfeits in "The Great Cardhouse". The only reason why I give this book four stars instead of five is that I felt a bit too many of the stories (I won't say which ones) ended with a suicide which occasionally felt like a Deus ex Machina. Despite that this is a book that you won't be sorry you've bought.