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Ripley's Game
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It has been years since I last read this, the first and best of the novels in the Ripley series, or the Ripliad as it is often called. Here we first meet Thomas Phelps Ripley, as he leaves New York to carry out a ‘mission’ in Europe. Patricia Highsmith makes a couple of references in the text here to Henry James’ ‘The Ambassadors’ which was obviously an inspiration for this, as the ‘mission’ that Ripley is to carry out is to persuade an American to return to the USA.

When we first meet Tom he is living hand to mouth in New York, carrying out a confidence scam, but one that will never be able to get him much money, as he hasn’t planned it out fully. His only hope is if someone pays him cash. But then Herbert Greenleaf steps into his life, as Ripley knew his son and Herbert is hoping that if he gives Tom an all expenses trip to Mongibello in Southern Italy, he will be able to persuade his son Dickie to return to the fold and take up a position in the family business.

It is because Highsmith really takes on the task of portraying such a complex character as Ripley that this book has always proved popular. Amoral, certainly a psychopath, Tom is also gay, although very much in the closet, indeed you get the impression that he kids himself that he isn’t, and that although obviously attracted to men, sex is something that he considers a bit dirty. There are so many facets to this person’s character that although we see him killing people we also feel some sympathy for him. We know that he had visions of being an actor and these never came to fruition, but we see him here take on the aspects of play acting as he imagines situations and mimics others so that he can deal with certain situations.

Only of moderate intelligence we read how Ripley murders others, but not necessarily the in depth thought of how to cover his tracks properly, or even committing a crime at a correct time. Thus a game of cat and mouse is played with the Italian police as Ripley has to use all his skills and trust to a certain amount of luck if he is to get away with his crimes.

A quite dark read but one that is fulfilling this is always worth reading, and is a good way to get into the head of a psychopath. Although here we find ourselves strangely rooting for the killer, and hoping that he isn’t arrested.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 May 2013
This is the second time I have read this book. The first was in 2000, and was inspired by the 1999 film adaptation directed by Anthony Minghella. Sufficient time had elapsed for me to have forgotten most of the detail of both the book and the film. I think this resulted in me enjoying it even more this time round. It's a compelling tale of how the opportunistic and amoral Tom Ripley takes advantage of situations. Tom Ripley is a deeply flawed individual, who - whilst clever and cunning - takes foolish risks and makes occasional mistakes. These ratchet up the tension for the reader.

The story is all told from Tom Ripley's perspective, and somehow, despite his reprehensible behaviour, Patricia Highsmith had me rooting for him. The book is full of insights into Ripley's character, including short flashbacks to his dysfunctional childhood that credibly help to explain his personality and behaviour.

As I was reading, I became very intrigued about Patricia Highsmith, and - on the basis of the biography on her Wikipedia page - can quite understand how she was able to conceive of a character like Ripley.

Ripley is a fantastic character, and this is a well written, psychological thriller.
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on 9 July 2012
To me, this is writing at its best. Highsmith's protagonist is Tom Ripley. He is a talented young man with ambition and very little else. He works, for the time being, in a United States of America Tax department where he fiddles extra money from the tax payers to line his own pockets, and he moves from the home of one friend after another until he outstays his welcome. Then, one day, good luck walks through the door of a bar in the form of Mr Herbert Greenleaf, a wealthy businessman whose son, Richard (Dickie) is living the good life in Mongibello, Italy. Herbert Greenleaf has followed Tom, recognising him as an acquaintance, even friend, of his son who he wants to return from America and join him in his boat-building company. Tom is easily persuaded, by the offer of excellent expenses, to go to Mongibello to try and persuade Richard to return. When Tom arrives in Italy, Richard Greenleaf barely recognises him but when Tom makes light of the fact that he is supposed to persuade Richard to return home, Richard finds it all great fun and takes Tom under his wing much to the annoyance of Richard's friend, Marge. Richard Greenleaf has everything that Tom could ever want. He is popular, he doesn't need to work, he lives in wonderful Italy, wears wonderful Italian clothes, eats at restaurants, attends parties, and better still, he has lots of money. The only thing that stands in the way of Tom having the life of Richard, is Richard. Tom Ripley, however, is gifted. Not only can he impersonate people, their voices, their mannerisms, he can even adapt his appearance. He is also very, very, gifted at forgery.


First published in 1955 and written in limited third person, Patricia Highsmith allows us into the thoughts, actions, and motivations of Tom Ripley, a totally insidious personality who is at once charming and frighteningly devious. We are privy to his feelings of guilt and repelled by how he justifies his murderous actions, amazed at his daring, and impressed by how skillfully he manipulates and deceives others, including the police, Richard's father, Marge, and anyone else who gets in his way.

What I love about this book is not only the tortuous plot that you really do have to keep up with to fully appreciate Patricia Highsmith's writing skill, (it can't be that difficult as I managed it!) and the skill of Tom Ripley but that there is no strong language, no excessively graphic scenes of violence or sex, none of the cheap thrills that you get in a lot of modern murder/thrillers. The clever plot is simply outstanding. It's no wonder that Alfred Hitchcock chose to make a movie out of Highsmith's first book, Strangers on a Train, in 1951.

This is a list of Highsmith's 'Ripley' books:

The Talented Mr Ripley - 1955
Ripley Under Ground - 1970
Ripley's Game - 1974
The Boy Who Followed Ripley - 1980
Ripley Under Water - 1991

I bought all mine as 'Very Good Condition' used paperbacks. The Talented Mr Ripley came via World of Books, Amazon. It arrived in excellent condition, just as described.

Patricia Highsmith (1921-95) was born in Texas and later lived in New York. The Talented Mr Ripley movie (1999) starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow was based on the first in a series of Tom Ripley books. The movie follows the book quite closely in part but the book's plot is far too complex for all the detail to be included in a 139 minute movie. Ripley's Game (2002), another excellent movie, was based on the third book of the series, and starred John Malkovich.
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on 7 September 2016
The story is great, I would have given it 5 stars, the only reason I didn't is because of the amount of typos in it. I expect a few, maybe the word 'at' being typed as 'It' by mistake, but on page 57 the main characters name, Tom, is typed as Toni ! Who's Toni? Didn't anyone proof read this before it went to print? Books are becoming increasingly expensive, and at £8.99, I expect the product to be perfect. I am half way through the book and have spotted 5 typos already. A message to Vintage Books at Random House, I read, on average, three books a month, maybe you would like to pay me to spot your mistakes? or if you can't be bothered, could you please make your books cheaper. Rant over.
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VINE VOICEon 8 July 2010
This book is about the adventures of Tom Ripley, a young man living in NY who is down on his luck - he gets the chance to go to Europe to persuade an acquaintance back to US and the story starts there.
It is less than 250 pages, split into 30 chapters. The book can be read as a straight forward thriller with a breathless pace to the plot. It is so much more than that though. The characterisation of Tom Ripley is a psychological analysis that was very advanced for it's time. Profiling of criminals is very common now but would have been cutting edge when this was written.
There is a lot of mystery and unanswered questions throughout the book which kept me reading - this made it a very enjoyable book to read.
The author has a talent of being able to describe something in a very few words. I could imagine sitting in the cafes and soaking up the sun.
Although the book is based in the 50s, the time period is not a major part of the book and I got the feeling that it could have been set anytime. However, the elegant style of the writing firmly places the novel in the 1950s/60s - there was a definate feeling of Raymond Chandler! It is atmospheric to the extreme in it's use of the wonderful European cities and villages that Tom visits.
As the book progresses the plot gets darker, with Tom getting deeper into the web of lies and deception that he weaves around his stories.
It is quite a small book and very powerful due to so much being packed it. Nothing happens that is not completely necessary to the development of the story - I would have liked to be able to sit and read it in one sitting, but life doesn't work like that!
I also enjoyed the third person narrative that works particularly well to make the reader seem like the observer. We do get into Tom's head but we never empathise with him, forcing us to find him a curiosity. We see him as others do but also try to understand his motives (without complete success).
A great example of a 1950s crime book. I'm not a big fan of this type of book but pleased that I read it and could have an opinion - worth reading by anyone.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 June 2014
In fact the third Ripley story (but I have yet to read Ripley Underground). I definitely think that one should have read "The Talented" first so that one knows something of Tom Ripley's background, although this story doesn't feature him as the central character. The plot is, as in all Ms Highsmith's stories, ingenious and involves the commission of some murders of members of two Mafia familiies. To divulge more would be to spoil the story.

The scene is France circa1950. Ms Highsmith paints a wonderful feeling for that time. An engaging story well written. Four stars because I think "The Talented" has the edge.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2003
I read the book before seeing the film, and as such the film didn't impress me much on first viewing, (though it has grown on me since), and I think that's largely because the book's greatness is down to its detailed understanding of Ripley's character. The film was a big glossy Hollywood number which went instead more for being a straightforward thriller, and you shouldn't really despise it for that reason, as it's a good movie. To make a film that stuck more religiously to the book though you would have to make it a much more offbeat, perhaps low-budget, affair.
The characterisation of Tom Ripley in this book is faultless. You do get much more idea of him as a person, particularly in the short but effective flashbacks to his troubled childhood (which is also where you gain your sympathy for him). His journey to Europe and the tangled web that is weaved there is extremely absorbing. In the Venice scenes too you get disturbing glimpses of Ripley's horror of close physical contact with the female sex, even to the extent where he is revolted by seeing a lady guest's underwear draped over her bedroom chair. It is hardly surprising that Patricia Highsmith has drawn such a complex character study, she was infatuated with her creation, to the point that she would sign letters from both herself and Tom!
The other books in the Ripley series are well worth reading but, to my mind, don't quite match the first. A lot of Ripley's mystique disappears when he's leading his comfortable artsy-fartsy life in France, (and in "The Boy Who Followed Ripley", a very late book in the series, I felt Highsmith was a tad TOO delicate about his sexuality, although the Berlin scenes have a sort of 1970s fascination), but in this, the first, where he's a loner travelling across Europe, this is a must-read.
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on 3 February 2018
having seen the film 'talented Mr Ripley' a few times I only recently found out it was based on a book. This trilogy was very well written,, very solid characters. I enjoyed this very much and will look into more of Ms Highsmith's work
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on 15 November 2017
Had a great time reading this. I remember loving the film, but after reading this, I'd say the book was a bit more enjoyable for me. You get more of a grasp of Tom's psychopathy and motives. There is a lot of him wondering around Europe, but overall, a great story following Tom Ripley's psychopathic and self-assured character, granted to make you grin and wince his blase yet calculated approach to the chase against him.

Can't complain about the quality of the book I received. I bought one of the '1p' ones.
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on 7 February 2017
I read this book as part of my university syllabus and loved it!

I've never really been interested in crime fiction but this has ignited a new found love. I immediately bought myself the second installment of Highsmith's Ripley series which is currently waiting on my 'To Be Read' shelf!
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