This was my first Highsmith novel and I am pleased to know that there are better ones out there. I did think that the pacing was good and the tension sufficient for my limited tolerance. However the characters were outlandishly polite and accepting over death, our of marriage affairs, gay and otherwise, and the gentle manner by which marital sex was managed. There were so many brilliant moments in their lives, successful books, art world ingenuity, even two very significant deaths were magnificently endured. Following one murder, the couple shared drinks, mulled over the wife's gay affair and the husband's otherwise erotic obsession, to be followed by lamb chops-perfect, I'm sure. The child of this wealth and beauty union, was over the edge of my tolerance however. She could draw upon command, was never impossibly intrusive and went easily whenever the plot commanded, to the abundant babysitters who could instantly be called upon for days of support.
And yet the book had a definite intelligence, a psychological frisson,in the the ambiguous questionably sinister watchful movements of a lonely and completely marginalized 50 year old man. We try to stay ahead of that very slender line where he keeps his madness, his rage and consuming sexual confusion from psychopathic proportions. At the same time the story is unbearably tragic when he is brutalized by the violent toughs who reduce him from even the slightest acceptability. We wait for another personality or some violence from him or to him, its a gamble and it's well done. We do not know the details of how this character became isolated by his own broken memories, Ralph is isolated by virtue of his own broken memories, but we know they are unmentionable. The book is redeemed through his part in it.