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A Game for the Living [Paperback]

Patricia Highsmith
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1991 Highsmith, Patricia
Ramón mends furniture. Theodore paints. A devout Catholic, Ramón lives in Mexico City, not far from where he was born into poverty. Theodore, a rich German transplanted to a country where money buys some comfort but no peace, believes in nothing at all. You'd think the two had nothing in common. Except, of course, that both had slept with Lelia. The two were good friends, so neither minded sharing her affections. They did mind, however, when Lelia was found raped, murdered,and horribly mutilated. The two friends, suspects both, twist in a limbo of tension and doubt, each seeking his own form of solace and truth.

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From the Back Cover

Ramn mends furniture. Theodore paints. A devout Catholic, Ramn lives in Mexico City, not far from where he was born into poverty. Theodore, a rich German transplanted to a country where money buys some comfort but no peace, believes in nothing at all. You'd think the two had nothing in common. Except, of course, that both had slept with Lelia. The two were good friends, so neither minded sharing her affections. They did mind, however, when Lelia was found raped, murdered, and horribly mutilated. The two friends, suspects both, twist in a limbo of tension and doubt, each seeking his own form of solace and truth.

"Highsmith in fine form, and if there are terrors in store for readers of A Game for the Living, there are also the rich pleasures of getting to know two men whose affection for each other runs deep enough to survive the possibility that one is a killer."-Janice Harayda, The Cleveland Plain Dealer


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Highsmith's best - but a good read July 6 2001
Format:Paperback
It seemed that Highsmith was interested in exploring the psychology of the two main characters -- Theodore and Ramon -- and their unlikely relationship. To do so, Highsmith packaged a murder mystery around the two. As a result, something is lost both in the mystery and the exploration of the characters.
The two men are vastly different. Teo is a wealthy German, reserved, cool, an artist. Ramon is a poor Mexican workingman, fiery, tempramental, a devout Catholic, a furniture mender. And they happened to share the same woman, who has been brutally murdered.
Told from Teo's point of view, the bulk of the book grapples with Teo's suspicion of Ramon as the killer and his efforts to understand his friend's mental state, which is, at best, somewhat shaky. They travel through Mexico together, trying to chase down suspects of the crime.
But ultimately the book fails to deliver. It never attains the level of tension that Highsmith usually brings to her books with austere prose and the exploration into the psychology of brutally flawed protagonists.
But, still, it's better than 95% of the mysteries out there. It's not a great place to start with Highsmith, but it's a interesting if not enthralling ride on the Patricia-train...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A sharp work of mystery Dec 4 2000
Format:Paperback
I tend to go for the harder edge of mystery and noir (Andrew Vachss, Chester Himes, etc.), but whenever I can afford it, I buy a new Highsmith novel. Why? Because she creates believeable characters and absorbing settings, and her books are more than just the mystery that's a segment (sometimes, as in this case, a small one) of the plot. Unlike the chilling "Cry Of The Owl", this novel is more about Theodore and Ramon than it is about the murder that it opens with. This isn't a wild ride, edge-of-your-seat book. Instead it lures you in by making you care about the characters. Highsmith seems almost to forget about the murder, in fact, and explores these two men, and their relationship, at some depth. The mystery is paid attention to...but the novel ends on a note that implies maybe it isn't as neat as the characters think. If you're looking for an out-and-out mystery, or a suspense thriller, "The Cry Of The Owl", an equally good book, is probably more for you. But if you like psychodrama, definitely pick up "A Game For The Living."
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3.0 out of 5 stars She's done better Sept. 26 2000
Format:Paperback
I devoured all Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley" books with the appetite of an ice-cream addict, but haven't found some of her others to be as satisfying. Highsmith seems to have certain themes that carry through most of her work: rich expatriates enjoying high living, artists and the art community, and wary, suspicious friendships between men. All these elements are found in A Game For the Living, which is set in Mexico. There's a gruesome murder (of course) and a lot of searching, mysterious clues, false leads, etc. Still, the book seemed in part to be a mere Mexican travelogue, as though Highsmith had made a trip to Mexico City and Acapulco and then put plenty of street names into her book just to prove she'd been there. Especially near the end of the book, the exact descriptions of the two main characters' moves in Acapulco are just too thorough and boring to make literary sense. At times you may wonder why the characters are putting themselves in so much danger, with the blessing of the police - it's unrealistic. Still, if you enjoy being taken into the fearsome, yet fascinating world of Highsmith's imagination, you'll get there through this book. It's just that you'll spend part of your trip on a dull tour bus.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric mystery with psychological depth May 9 2000
Format:Paperback
This is my first encounter with Patricia Highsmith, and I've very favorably impressed and looking forward to reading another of her novels immediately. Not being really conversant with the "who done it" genre, if indeed that is her genre, I can only compare her to Georges Simenon. There is the same intense concentration and a similar interest in the psychology of people at cross purposes. She does a fine job with the third-person introspection of her leading character, Theodore Schiebelhut, a well-to-do Swiss artist living in Mexico. There is an unusual feel not only to her character developments, but to the picture she paints of the upper middle class lifestyle of Mexico in the fifties with their easy privilege amid a restrained carnival atmosphere. Yet there is never a sense of unreality or of anything fake or pasted on. Highsmith doesn't reach for effects nor does she contrive. She carries the burden of veracity very well while giving "reality" an original twist that is hard to define.
Theodore, the contemplative Protestant is contrasted with Ramón, the fiery Latino Catholic, both lovers of the same woman who is found murdered as the novel begins. I was able to guess who did it fairly early on, although I am not sure why. Highsmith produces some red herrings en route to a neatly packaged conclusion, but plays fair at all times. Note worthy is the easy-going, yet savvy police inspector Sauzas. The tension between the sin-filled Catholic Ramón, and the nearly agnostic Theodore is nicely developed and maintained. The feel of the Mexican hotels and the easy Mexican lifestyle is vividly rendered while the contrast between the well-to-do and the poor is presented in a straightforward manner. Highsmith's plot is well thought out and dove tails nicely with the resolution of the psychology of her characters. It's a little slow-going in the middle but finishes well without any artificiality.
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