20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2006
If your only experience of Patricia Highsmith is the Ripley novels, and you're looking for more, you should definitely pick up this book. Deep Water was her first novel after 'The Talented Mr Ripley', and is a similar suspensful and psychological study of murder. I'm about three quarters of the way through Highsmith's books, and this is my new favourite.
The classic Highsmith ingredients are there: the finely observed, almost mundane domestic setting (which feels like a social history of 1950s US middle class life); the matter of fact, and therefore profoundly shocking way her killer switches between domestic routine, murder and back again; the stupidity/complicity of small town neighbours, and so on. The final few chapters also provide some fine moments of suspense: we know something's going to happen, we know where it's going to happen, we know who it's going to happen to, but we don't know exactly how it is going to unfold.
So get this one, and then move on to 'Cry of the Owl', 'The Blunderer' and 'Edith's Diary'.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2006
As with her better known Ripley novels, in Deep Water (a welcome reissue from Bloomsbury in a handsome edition), Patricia Highsmith gives us a portrayal of a killer who is not entirely unsympathetic: or at least (as with Tom Ripley), it seems to the reader that the people who suffer at his hand are a lot worse than he is... Here, she sets Victor Van Allen, a small publisher with an independent income, against his vampish wife Melinda, or, as the blurb puts it:
"Melinda Van Allen is beautiful, rebellious, tempestuous and sexy. Unfortunately for wealthy socialite Vic Van Allen, she is his wife."
When one of Melinda's lovers is murdered, Van Allen seizes the opportunity to frighten off another by telling him that he, Van Allen, was the murderer. No-one believes him, but word gets around, and soon enough, Van Allen finds himself the true possessor of the title. The transition from wronged husband to killer seems to us logical, fluent and plausible, and our sympathy is, if not unequivocally with Van Allen, certainly never with the victims (though Highsmith dextrously forces this by never delving into the reactions of those left behind: the other victims of any murder). She is more interested in exploring what makes a man do these things, and in interesting us in it too, by making the books so devourably readable. "She writes about men like a spider writing about flies," said one critic, and it's a sticky, addictive web once you're in.