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on 20 April 2014
One has to admit that this sounds creepy and disturbing, as a man becomes attracted to a young woman, living in a rather isolated house. Initially he merely hangs around and watches her through her window but one evening he gets too close and is spotted. Her reaction is strange indeed, as she invites him in. So far, so unlikely.
The man, Robert, doesn't put a foot wrong and they get along well, without much in the way of romantic indications, but, quite naturally, Jenny's fiancé is distinctly put out, as she suddenly decides she is in love with Robert. Here is where it all turns nasty. Greg, the fiancé, starts a fight with Robert who has his car forced off the road. Robert overcomes his attacker and flees the scene, after pulling Greg out of the shallows of the river nearby.
The scenario heats up as Greg gets in touch with Robert's ex-wife and they contrive to pretend that Greg is missing (presumably drowned by Robert). Greg approaches Robert's ex-wife, a truly awful woman, Nickie, who can't resist causing mayhem and bankrolls Greg's hide-out in New York. But Greg can't keep away and Robert is shot in the arm at one point. Nevertheless though some of his friends stick by him, most of the neighbourhood is convinced that Robert has done away with his rival. It seems that the cops couldn't care less about Robert being in danger seeing as the truth about his voyeurism has slipped out and everyone thinks he's a bit of a pervert. Well, that's what you get by peering into people's windows.
The truth gets out and Nickie's wicked plan to make life hell for her ex-husband heats up. By then Jenny has gone distinctly off the boil and is busy deciding to kill herself. One can't feel much about this as she is "half in love with death" anyway. The seething stew of people's motivation is hotter than a furnace, but why? Robert hasn't done anything except look in Jenny's window and then been foolish enough to let her hang around with him. And the motive for all this mayhem? Nothing beyond sheer malevolence. As with many of Highsmith's books she gets her people into terrible dilemmas and when she gets fed up, she just stops writing, as here. In contrast, her Ripley series seems tied up much tighter, but there are weak moments in quite a few of her other books too. This is one is full of terrible anxiety for a relatively innocent victim and one seethes along with it as the plot thickens, but nothing can excuse the lamest of lame endings.