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Strangers on a Train [Hardcover]

Patricia Highsmith
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1966
From the moment that he constructs a perfect alibi, Guy Haines is trapped in a nightmare of shared guilt and an insidious merging of his personality with that of his conspirator.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd; New impression edition (April 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434335029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434335022
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,284,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Strangers on a Train is a moral-vertigo thriller: Crime and Punishment for a post-atomic age. --Tom Nolan" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Now a thrilling West End stage production for November 2013!! --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dark, disturbing and sophisticated. 25 Nov 2003
By S. Hapgood VINE VOICE
"Strangers On A Train" bears many comparisons with Patricia Highsmith's other great work "The Talented Mr Ripley", in fact it can almost be seen as a precursor to it. Both introduce central characters that are incredibly dark and complex, and both show extreme obsession ending in murder. The character of Charles Bruno in this must surely rank as one of the greatest psychological profiles of a villain/misfit/outsider (take your pick) ever committed to paper, comparable with Graham Greene's portrayal of Pinky in "Brighton Rock", or Alex in Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange". We know he is a disturbed young man right from the outset, when he meets Guy on the train and indulges in a fatal and macabre "what if?" game with him. There is something almost Faustian about all this, as Guy gets drawn into a deadly game with someone who could almost be the Devil in human form.
As the book goes on and Guy gets himself deeper and deeper into Bruno's web, you find yourself asking if Guy is perhaps as innocent himself as he would like you to believe. That this isn't a simple case of a variation on the good twin/evil twin plot, but that Bruno is bringing out a dark side to Guy's character that he deep down wants to indulge. Bruno's own derangement, his alcohol-fuelled deleriums are disturbing, as is his infantile dependance on his awful mother, who wants to keep him forever as her spoilt little boy.
There are many classy touches to this book, including Bruno's seeming ability to be able to appear supernaturally inside locked rooms! And I can't see a fairground carousel anymore without thinking of Guy's wife and "The Girl With The Strawberry Curl", or whatever it was. There have been a few attempts to film this, (including a perfectly abominable t.v film in which Guy and Bruno's characters were done as women instead), but Alfred Hitchcock's is the only one worth seeing.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool, dark and compelling 30 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This may be Patricia Highsmith's first published novel but it shall certainly not be my last. I love everything about Highsmith's style. I love her straight, confident story-telling manner. I love her settings (here it's New York City and other American cities). I love her characters: affluent Americans from another age and the people they rub shoulders with, and I love the chilling world she creates of dirty deeds, guilt and temptation.
Until the closing chapter, I really did not know how this story would end, nor did I know how I wanted it to end. I was completely in the hands of the writer, entrapped in her strange world.
This book has a lot in common with Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". The haunting of the 'good' character by his 'evil' twin is the guts of the novel.
In summary, this is a cool, dark, stylish thriller. Highsmith is in excellent form here. This book is perfect summer holiday reading!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychopathy & Tragedy - Shakespeare on a Train 18 Mar 2010
An interesting idea - two men meet on a train and discover that they each have someone in their lives whom they want dead. They discuss the possibility of swapping murders, thus leaving no trace of themselves at the scene and allowing each of them to constuct an alibi. Ingenious.

But the real power of this book lies in Highsmith's exploration of a murderer's guilt. The minute but constant decay of a tortured psyche. The impact that the wrong decision can have on one man's life as it steadily unravels beyond his control.

At times this book is philosophical and questions the validty of good and evil co-existing in all men. But the plot is incredibly frustrating too - there are too many bad decisions made by the main protagonist that leave you incredulous. In this respect it reminded me of a Shakespearean tragedy, played out with Othello and Iago or Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Tragedy is inevitable when a character allows his weaknesses to be exploited and Highsmith achieves this in a masterly way, never letting the tension ease, and one catasrophe and bad decision roll into another creating a demonic snowball of events.

There are moments of true genius in Strangers on a Train but I found it labourious to read at times, with too many peripheral characters and the main characters' actions were sometimes too frustrating and lacked genuine resolve. But I may be being too harsh. Strangers on a Train is a cut above your average thriller and contains many things worth thinking about. On another reading I may give five stars, as it is a book that needs to savoured and turned over in your mind, and not all crime/thrillers can be accused of such psychological depth.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 8 Aug 2001
By A Customer
Highsmith's ability as a writer is clear in this novel. Her depiction of Guy and Bruno and the claustrophobic atmosphere she creates throughout Strangers on a Train combine to make a compelling read. Read this book, its what crime writing is all about!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic suspense 8 Jan 2004
This is the author’s highly acclaimed debut novel. Two men, an architect, Guy Haines, and a psychopath, Charles Bruno, meet on a train to swap murders. Charles will kill Guy’s wife Miriam and Guy will kill Charles’ father. A chance meeting and a rash conversation will trap Guy Haines, almost against his will, in a nightmare. This is a cunningly plotted melodrama and I read it with thorough enjoyment. Alfred Hitchcock shot a film baring the same name and the movie is equally thrilling. Classic suspense is still the best in my view!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
Another brilliant read from Patricia Highsmith. I really didn't want to put it down. She draws you deeper & deeper into the story. Excellent.
Published 29 days ago by Jackie Lenson
5.0 out of 5 stars strangers on a train
a really good read psychological thriller by patricia highsmith page turning glad i bought it would reccomed it to all
Published 4 months ago by MRS M.M. DUNNE
4.0 out of 5 stars more than Hitchcock
If you only know this through Alfred Hitchcock's superb film than you are in for a real treat.
wonderful writing
Published 5 months ago by allenr
5.0 out of 5 stars The True Story Alfred
Hitchcock's film is undeniably terrific but so is the book, which is very different - same premise, nutter who hates his father focuses on unhappily married man he meets on a train... Read more
Published 6 months ago by W. Russell
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and confusing
Two total strangers who meet on a train discuss the perfect murder: "I kill your wife and you kill my father," says the mastermind. Read more
Published 15 months ago by John Fitzpatrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb suspense of how a good person can be dragged into a nightmare.
I liked the first two thirds of the book, but found the last third very hard to get through. The repetitious nature of primary character Guy's self torture was relentless and... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jenni Wickham
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written tale of chance meeting of 2 strangers and development of...
Well written tale of chance meeting of 2 strangers and development of plot to carry out reciprocal murders. If you like your books to contain intrigue then this is one for you. Read more
Published on 4 July 2012 by Letsgoflyakuyt_lfc
1.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment
Had this for my reading list - and was looking forward to it. Shouldn't have.

The beginning of the book is good - but that's about it. Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2012 by Soumi
4.0 out of 5 stars Wearing well?
A great writer, original with penetrating analysis of the human psyche, good and bad. Just felt the development of one of the main characters guilt complex went on a bit too long... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2012 by P. C. Langman
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment
A convoluted, unbelievable plot in a pedestrian-paced protracted novel.The often inebriated conspirator would be incapable of organising anything apart from opening a bottle of... Read more
Published on 27 Oct 2011 by Dr. David M. Williams
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