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A Suspension of Mercy (Random Acts of Kindness) Paperback – 27 Jul 1972

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Paperback, 27 Jul 1972
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 July 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140034706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140034707
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The land around Sydney and Alicia Bartleby's two-story cottage was flat, like most Suffolk country. Read the first page
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Banjaxed on 13 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
See nobody has even reviewed it! I've read this several times over the years and in my view its a classic crime thriller and one of my favourite books. The hero pretends he's murdered his wife to get "insight" for his writing. Gradually the constant pretence that he has crossed the line and committed a murder alters him psycholgically... The style is a bit dated but get through the first few pages and you will eat up the rest.
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By Hamsun on 1 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
This is one of Patricia Highsmith's very best books. Arguably on par with the first of the Ripley books. It has to be said that Highsmith is one of the most significant American writers of the last century and my hunch is that her reputation will continue to grow.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 30 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable suspense novel 26 April 2002
By Westley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm so glad that the works of Patricia Highsmith have been reissued (I particularly love her Ripley series). This book is similar in many ways to the Ripley books - male protagonist who is an amoral American living in the European countryside and married to a European. Sydney is an unsuccessful American mystery writer, who finds himself unhappy in his marriage. His wife, Alicia, is a bit critical of Sydney and he finds his imagination plotting her murder. The suspense comes from guessing whether he will end up killing her and whether he will get away with it. The plot twists are rather clever, although very little of what happens is particularly believable and the ending is a let-down. Despite these flaws, Highsmith's writing style is so smooth and enjoyable that I found myself liking this book a great deal. Highly recommmended for suspense book lovers and fans of the Ripley series.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Highsmith was NOT a crime writer.... 8 Jan 2004
By Cynthia Curl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
...and this novel is an example. Because her characters often engage in activities that are illegal or, at least, immoral, American publishers have classified her work as "crime fiction," or something similar. Highsmith's fiction was decidedly NOT crime fiction, and people who read Grafton, Cornwell, or Kellerman might be disappointed. There are no good guys, bad guys, hunky detectives, loyal girl Fridays, or love stories. Just people we normally meet, taking extraordinary chances or exploring weird indulgences. Who hasn't fantasized about killing one's spouse (or parent, child, friend, enemy, etc.)?
Read any of Patricia Highsmith's work as if you were reading a classic novelist--Dostoevsky, perhaps. In Highsmith's vision, crime is a metaphor representing the oddly amoral choices we make out of our natural narcissism or neurosis. The discomfort you feel while reading a Highsmith novel? Be warned: that's your conscience scraping its fingernails across the blackboard of your soul. Pleasant? No. Dangerous, guilty, neurotic fun? You bet!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Another strange Highsmith brew 10 Dec 2001
By Michael Schau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There is something tantalyzing about reading a book that could only be a book; a story that hides behind the fact that you can only know what you are told, never what you see. Is the story-teller of this novel (the original title was, I believe, "The Storyteller") telling us the bizarre and awful things he is doing or is he working out the plotline of a new fiction? Curious characters and situations, and some very odd behavior that stretches your reader's patience. But we do not go to Highsmith to meet conventional people with conventional behavior; we ask her to introduce us to the perverse and psychologically messy people we hope we never meet outside of her pages.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Love and marriage. 26 Mar 2010
By Michael G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A Suspension of Mercy by the highly acclaimed Patricia Highsmith starts off essentially as a dark comedy in that there's much ado about a murder that hasn't taken place. Not much of real interest happens for long stretches of narrative as characters are methodically introduced and fleshed out to varying degrees.

By design, the first 60% of the book is slow moving and, at times, maddeningly dull. It was Highsmith's intention to show that evil is not something exotic but rather it derives from the very ordinary. That which is monstrous resides in the everyday. Evil lurks in our neighbors, our friends, our family members, ourselves. So, the reader must patiently watch as the characters do unexciting, everyday things even though such mundane activities are often very dull.

The action picks up in the last 40% of A Suspension of Mercy. Here, some real criminality rears its ugly head. But there are problems here as well. More often than not, Highsmith has her characters do things that make little sense and, even more disturbingly, seem completely out of character. That's particularly disappointing since Highsmith's best work is known for showcasing great characters who display highly recognizable personality types and behave in the exact ways such personality types would be expected to behave.

A Suspension of Mercy is disappointingly inferior to Highsmith's best work. Not recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
tense psychological thriller among Highsmith's better works. 4 Sep 2001
By lazza - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having read most of Highsmith's novels I've become rather critical of her work in both good and bad ways. While undoubtedly gifted in generating suspense out of thin air, many of her stories are formulaic ... with the sense Highsmith is "manufacturing" the novel rather than it be a result of inspiration. However when Patricia Highsmith has a truly new and creative thought she produces great stuff (The Talented Mr Ripley, This Sweet Sickness, Strangers on a Train). How does Suspension of Mercy hold up?? Rather well, actually.
Suspension of Mercy is a story about a crime novelist and screenwriter who imagines what it would be like to kill his wife ... nothing more than a morbid 'hobby'. However when his wife walks out and keeps her whereabouts unknown people begin to talk, the police get involved, and ... it gets interesting. Highsmith does a wonderful job on focusing on the nervous, neurotic behaviour of the characters. While the story isn't entirely believable I found the ending to be rather good.
Bottom line: a very competent effort by Highsmith. Not among her very best, but certainly a polished piece of mystery writing.
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