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The Crime Writer Hardcover – 2 Jun 2016

3.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (2 Jun. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444731114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444731118
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 319,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

It's brilliant (Paula Hawkins)

THE CRIME WRITER represents an astonishing act of literary ventriloquism, easily on a par with THE MASTER, Colm Tóibín's fine novel about Henry James. (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

Ventriloquy is Dawson's forte . . . this fascinating, skilfully constructed novel builds a convincing picture of Patricia Highsmith (Andrew Taylor Spectator)

You do not need to be a passionate Highsmith fan to admire this beautifully written and elegant novel, but I think it will particularly appeal to those who have read her books and know something about her life; they should recognise many of the allusions and ideas (Jessica Mann Literary Review)

An ingenious concept . . . Dawson can be applauded for her passionate immersion in her subject, and for creating a novel as dark and odd as the subject herself. (Joanna Briscoe Guardian)

A beautifully crafted and utterly riveting blend of fact and fiction about a fascinating 20th-century figure. (Carla McKay Daily Mail)

An assured and visceral page-turner, as convincing as it is bold (Stephanie Cross Lady)

Dawson has drawn a witty, creepy plot as well as a convincing character sketch of a woman all too easy to caricature (Jake Kerridge Daily Telegraph)

An intoxicating, shadowy narrative . . . [Dawson's] imagined version of events will delight Highsmith's fans (Crime Scene magazine)

Dawson skilfully constructs a dark tale that Highsmith fans will love (Nick Rennison Sunday Times)

This novel is the real deal. Beautifully written and a must for all Highsmith fans. (Phyllis Nagy, scriptwriter of the film CAROL)

A dark tale of madness and murder, of obsession and delusion, that's worthy of Highsmith herself (Sarra Manning Red)

This novel is one wonderful long riff on Patricia Highsmith . . . Unsettling, sexy and gripping. (Tim Pears)

Fantastically moody and appealingly unhinged - a piece of sophisticated literary ventriloquism that achieves a wonderful blurring of the lines between fact and fantasy. (Sarah Waters Summer Reads, Guardian)

[An] impeccable portrait . . . a hugely compelling read, jam-packed full of tensions and psychological insight, all beautifully observed. (Eithne Ferry Sunday Express)

Book Description

By the Orange Prize-shortlisted Jill Dawson, a riveting novel that folds a brilliant portrait of Patricia Highsmith into a tale of duplicity, madness and murder.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Jun. 2016
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before starting this review, I must confess I have never read anything by Patricia Highsmith. Obviously, like all avid readers, she has long been on my radar and I have meant to read her novels, but never got around to them. However, I have read other books by Jill Dawson and enjoyed them, so I came to this without any preconceptions about how she portrayed Highsmith. If you are a devotee of Patricia Highsmith and possibly later feel that this is not a good portrait of her, I can only say that this has left me eager to read both her books and her biography. In that sense, I feel it is a sympathetic portrayal. In some ways though, I am glad that I really did not come to this novel with any idea about the ‘real’ Patricia Highsmith - this is, obviously, a fusion of biographical fact and fiction and, as such, is not meant to be necessarily accurate in every aspect of the authors life.

This book begins in Sussex, where Patricia Highsmith is living in Bridge Cottage. It is 1964 and Beatlemania is the talk of the times, but Pat only wants peace and quiet. She was previously living in France, where she received anonymous letters – a possible stalker. Now, she has her friend Ronnie, who visits and, apart from that, wants only to be left alone. That, however, is easier said than done. Invading her peace are nosy neighbour, Mrs Ingham and a young journalist; Virginia Smythson-Balby.

One of the reasons that Pat longs to be left alone is that she is having an affair with a married woman, called Sam. Sam lives in London with her husband, Gerald and has a young daughter. Meetings involve furtive calls in phone boxes, cancellations, frustration and jealousy.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There is a very interesting conceit underpinning this book, which is part murder mystery, part 'biography': that of the 'crime writer' (I suspect Highsmith might indeed have murdered anyone who insisted on describing her so, who commits a murder themselves, almost trapped in the experience their own books create.

Highsmith herself was fascinating and Jill Dawson captures that very well, as she does the sense of time and place. But there's something about the book that, enjoyable and engaging as it is, held me back from taking to it fully. Put bluntly, I suppose it seems a good many steps too far to fictionalise a real person's life to the point where they become available as murderers: why stop there? I wonder whether we would accept this presentation of a writer as a rapist, say, or paedophile.

I know this sounds very 'sniffy', but I couldn't help finding the whole idea a little distasteful. And at least one other reviewer here shares a similar response.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jill Dawson is one of those authors who I feel should be much more lauded than she is. Her talent is quiet and unassuming, yet immense. This story of Patricia Highsmith is so powerful because you are never quite sure if it's all in Highsmith's head. I ended the book not convinced that all that had happened was "all a dream" but the book is nonetheless entrancing because of this. I devoured it eagerly. Great stuff!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with S J Williams. The book just didn't do it for me, although it's a clever idea. Drifting from first person narrative to third person narrative irritated and didn't help the flow of the writing. A disappointing read.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1964, the author Patricia Highsmith was living in the Suffolk countryside and writing. Jill Dawson has taken this as her starting point to concoct a crime novel which is entirely reminiscent of Highsmith's own stories. It's a clever literary device and it's well executed. You don't need to be familiar with Highsmith's writing to enjoy this, but you will enjoy it far more if you are.

Patricia Highsmith is probably best known for the stories that became films (The Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley's Game, Carol) and also for writing the screenplay of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Her characters are unsettling: good people disappoint, everyone has a streak of evil. I was familiar with her writing but I knew little about her as an individual - for example, she had an obsession with snails. It's fascinating to read the author's acknowledgments at the end about the different strands of Highsmith's life and writing that inspired this novel.

The plot of The Crime Writer (somewhat ironical given that Highsmith hated to be described in that way), concerns her relationship with two women. There is Sam, her elegant and unhappily married lover, and there is Ginny, a pushy yet evasive young journalist who comes to interview her. When a murder is committed, it will impact on all of their lives.

I really liked the writing in this book and I thought that the plot was very clever, but it also felt very disjointed. The crime felt almost secondary and I wanted it to have more focus. Ultimately I just found this a little dragged out and lacking momentum.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Idea of a murder story starring Patricia Highsmith as the protagonist is ingenious. But the execution - and here I choose my words! - is a bit of a letdown. The blend of fact and fiction works well up to a point, blurring the edges of truth. Where it falls down is in the detail. Why does Pat's lesbian lover Sam have blonde hair that suddenly changes to dark, and back again? There is a calendar which mysteriously flips from December to next year's January. An ever-lasting one? These and other discrepancies meant that I was never truly engaged in the story. And, without wanting to blurt, the ending is a cop-out! A shame, because the original concept was so intriguing.
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