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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 5 April 2016
to me...this started so well.....up to a pivotal point in the plot......but then i felt it petered out...Ive read" Mermaids on a golf course" by Highsmith.. ..and those short stories did more with less.....to me this should have been a short....it feels padded out.....if i could have a refund and choose another Highsmith I would.
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on 20 October 2005
One man kills his wife, the second man obssesses over this story then his wife dies in similar circumstances. One guilty and one innocent, partners in crime nevertheless. Each man is maltreated in the same way and Highsmith has once again interlocked 2 men in a enthralling tale of murder, suspense, and blame. As usual in Highsmith novels there is no happy righting of wrongs and, bery like Strangers on a Train, one mad man exudes power and control over the 'innocent' more vulnerable character. Oddly though the people most revolting in this web-like tale is the policeman, Corby, and Walter's acidic. pathetic, detestable wife, Clara. There must have been many a suspect for her murder. Great stuff!
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on 21 July 2016
I found reading this book extremely hard-going. I had to force myself to keep reading and not to jump to the end pages so I could put it away. A few prime irritations: the main character Walter was certainly a complete blunderer, and, as someone else said, for a lawyer he coped very inefficiently with the policeman Corby. On the other hand, the murderer Kimmel was a complete wimp in Corby's presence. However, what puzzled me most was why the author named the wife Clara and the housekeeper Claudia? - both beginning with Cla - I couldn't remember which woman was which in the first few chapters; why did she do it?
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on 24 January 2016
Gripping but ,unconvincing ending spoils a well crafted yarn.Maybe they all get what they deserve..She is great writer so good at creating tension .Not as good as Strangers on a train or the Ripley series but well worth a read.
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Patricia Highsmith's 1954 novel, "The Blunderer" is the second of four novels included in a new Library of America volume, "Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1950s." The LOA book in its turn is part of a two-volume box set edited by Sarah Weinman of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 1950s, which includes eight novels by eight women writers of suspense fiction. The LOA kindly has given me a review copy of the box set. I am enjoying working through the individual novels.

Of the eight writers in the LOA set, Highsmith (1921 -- 1995) is the best known. Her 1955 novel "The Talented Mr Ripley" is included in a Library of America volume of crime writing from the 1950s. Highsmith's many novels about the Ripley character have been much praised and filmed. Her first novel, "Strangers on a Train" became a celebrated Alfred Hitchcock film. But her third novel, "The Blunderer" was out of print for many years until its 2001 reissue. The novel's publication in the LOA will provide for its permanence and accessibility.

Highsmith's novel is set in Long Island and Newark in the early 1950s. The novel tells the story of two women taking separate lengthy bus trips who meet their deaths at rest stops along the way. Both women are in unhappy marriages. The book opens with the brutal murder of the first woman by her husband, Melchior, "Mel" Kimmel. (There is no suspense about the murder or the killer, as Highsmith makes both clear in her opening chapter.) The scene of the book soon shifts to the unhappy marriage between Walter and Clara Stackhouse. Walter, 30, is a successful but restless corporate lawyer. He lives a dull life socializing with other well to do people. His marriage has been deteriorating as Clara becomes increasingly demanding, nagging, and unresponsive sexually. Walter sees a news clipping about the Kimmel murder and the lives and fates of the two men gradually intertwine when Clara meets her death at a bus rest stop with Walter trailing her. A brutal detective, Corby, believes both men guilty of murdering their wives and pursues both of them remorselessly and violently. Walter's actions show him as guilty in act as in his mind. The book offers a portrayal of internal self-destruction.

The book is tensely and tightly written with its two primary male characters well portrayed. The novel also shows the shallow aimless side of suburban America in the post- WW II years and the consequences of living without purpose. Walter tries to find meaning to his life by contemplating leaving his law firm and opening his own practice to serve lower to middle class clients. His sexual and emotional feelings try to revive from his marriage when he becomes smitten with a young music teacher. But his dreams prove unavailing when he cannot handle his relationship with Clara or explain his actions following her suspicious death. In an early passage of the book, Highsmith describes Walter's unsuccessful search for purpose in life:

"Walter felt that perfect achievements were few. Men made laws, set goals, and then fell short of them. His marriage had fallen short of what he had hoped. Clara had fallen short, and perhaps he had not been what she expected, either. But he had tried and he was still trying. One of the few things he knew absolutely was that he loved Clara, and that pleasing her made him happy. And he had Clara, and he had pleased her by taking the job he had, and by living here among all the pleasant, dull people. And if Clara didn't seem to enjoy life as much as she should, she still did not want to move anywhere else or do anything but what she was doing. Walter had asked her. At thirty, Walter had concluded that dissatisfaction was normal. He supposed life for most people was falling slightly short of one ideal after another, salved if one was lucky by the presence of somebody one loved. But he could not put out of his mind the fact that Clara, if she kept on, could kill what was left of his hope for her."

Some aspects of the novel make it less than fully convincing. The detective, Corby, is intolerably brutal in his investigation which goes well beyond the scope of acceptable police practice in the 1950s. As a lawyer, Walter surely would have realized this at the outset and taken steps to protect himself, such as hiring a capable criminal defense attorney. I was less than fully convinced by his complete emotional and mental collapse and by his failure to take steps to protect himself. With that reservation, the novel is thoughtful and chilling in its portrayal of the evil and the foolish that lurks behind much everyday life.

"The Blunderer" is a relatively obscure Highsmith novel that rewards reading. It is worthy of being remembered and deserves its place in the LOA's excellent new anthology of Women Crime Writers.

Robin Friedman
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on 20 September 2013
Although this isn't as an accomplished novel as her famous ones this is still worth reading if you admire Highsmith.
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on 10 April 2013
I'm currently at an Inn and noticed the paperback version on the shelf. I've JUST finished the first chapter and I'm in shock! As I can't take the book home I will be ordering a copy!

I recommend this book for anyone interested in plots, disturbing minds (the characters) and somewhat twisted scenes.

I look forward to reading more!
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on 26 June 2016
Couldn't put this down! High smith brilliantly charts an ordinary man's descent into mental hell. Few writers capture the experience of guilt better.
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on 1 January 2016
The characters are amazing. They draw you into the story such that I could not put it down. Loved it.
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on 14 August 2015
Again, if you liked Ripley this will be for you
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