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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 7 October 2004
This dark tale is expertly told by Highsmith. Robert Forester appears to live a very unremarkable & quite boring life. He works in an office, drinks a little too much and has developed a worrying habit of watching a mysterious young woman going about her household chores..... Whilst this is clearly far from "normal", Highsmith quickly reassures you that he poses no real threat. All seems strangely innocuous until the spy & the spied upon finally meet.
Highsmith introduces us to a gallery of odd and unpleasant characters, although it is impossible not to feel empathy with the main character. Whilst there are no direct references to the era, the book has the cosy aura of 1950's/60's America.
This book is deliciosly dark and absolutely un- put downable, I raged at the central characters' weakness (especially when it came to his revolting, toxic ex wife), and felt a little deflated that the ending wasn't nicely rounded off. These however are minor quibbles, this is a must read & will leave you wanting to devour much more of her work!
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on 26 March 2006
I read this 1962 novel by Patricia Highsmith over a weekend, and found her at the top of her form. It's a fascinating portrayal of the tragedy and misery that results when four damaged people - couples, or ex-couples - collide in life. Highsmith's credentials in keeping us interested are amply displayed in the first three pages. On page one, we find the main character being invited by a colleague to his and his wife's wedding anniversary dinner. What story lies behind that? But we never find out, as by page two Highsmith has moved on to the protagonist himself, telling us about his hatred of dusk falling: "like a black sea creeping over the earth. In winter ... it came with frightening swiftness ... It was like sudden death." And on page three, we discover that his main pastime these days, once night has fallen, is to prowl around a young girl's house, watching her through the kitchen window...
From this Highsmith expertly conjures a tale of sex and murder with no sex and even less murder. The characters are almost all unsympathetic, and yet I felt for them in their turmoil, at the least expected moments. There are several rank implausibilities peppered through the plot, but they can't detract from Highsmith's brilliant control of the suspense that dragged me willingly 250 pages to the end in just over a day, and the payoff is both dramatic and thrilling, to the very last ambiguous sentence. This, then, is the good - the great - face of crime writing.
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on 5 November 2000
Genuinely unputdownable, though dated, thriller about a man who is accused of a crime he hasn't committed. This bleak story is exciting, sparsely written, and convincing.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2008
I don't know how Patricia Highsmith does it, but as with Tom Ripley again I found myself sympathising with a man whom society would say was a criminal, and despising those who would brand him so. As the novel progresses the crazy seem increasingly sane, and the sane increasingly crazy. Very clever indeed.
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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.
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on 6 June 2016
A pleasure to discover - being a fan of the Ripley's - that this is of equally high quality. Some unexpected things occur and it is beautifully paced and revealed by great storyteller.

I recently read Temor of Forgery (slow paced and more examining guilt and sentiments) and Strangers on a Train (very good) by Highsmith and Owl is my favourite.
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on 19 July 2015
Amazingly brilliant plotting, even by the high standards of Patricia Highsmith. This, coupled with the usual complex descriptions of the thoughts and motivations of each of the characters, makes this book a compelling read. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2009
Patricia Highsmith's crime novels are invariably engagingly sinister tales and "The Cry of the Owl" is no exception. There is a twist in this dark tale very early on as the story of a prowler who spies on a young, engaged woman and her fiance takes a dramatically different turn when the object of the prowler's attentions invites him in for a coffee.

As ever, Highsmith creates a palpable atmosphere of real tension and menace, but for me, there was something lacking in this book. Highsmith decides that her lead character, Robert, will be relatively calm and colected in the face of the troubles that befall him. This is an intriguing choice, as far too much fiction depicts, and indeed even relies upon, characters overreacting to events in order to hammer home a point. However, the problem here is that Robert is difficult to care about. He is not the fascinating character that Highsmith's Tom Ripley is, for example, and midway through the book I found that I did not really care whether things worked out for Robert or not.

Highsmith makes brave choices in her characterisation and plotting, particularly the characters of Jennifer, the young woman Robert spies on, and Nickie, Robert's ex-wife. This sense of nerve and verve is the reason I am giving this book four stars, even though I found that towards its latter stages, "The Cry of the Owl" becomes a frustrating read that doesn't seem to quite hit the mark that it was aiming for.

Highsmith has written better, but a less-than-brilliant Patricia Highsmith effort is still a very decent crime novel.
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on 28 January 2014
So indicative of its time
and a fascinatingly compelling read
P Highsmith (so much more than Ripley) is a spellbinding spinner of atmosphere laden with tension and doubt.
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on 19 March 2016
A typical Highsmith book. Robert Forrester has to dig himself out of a nightmare and clear his name as most of his neighbours and the local police are hostile or unhelpful.
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