Patricia Highsmith pulls a one-two punch on readers with her disturbing "People Who Knock on the Door." The first punch aims at modern Christianity. The second aims at every reader who thought the first punch was aimed at modern Christianity.
The story is centered around Arthur, a recent high-school graduate, and the problems he has concerning his family. His father has recently become a Christian - a Bible-thumping, "Amen"-shouting believer. Because his children have not been raised in a Christian home, the father's conversion tears the family apart, and traditional Highsmith violence ensues.
Is Highsmith praising or satirizing modern Christianity? Her opinion is seemingly obvious, because the book is almost completely one-sided...or is it? It, in fact, is not one-sided at all. Patricia Highsmith brilliantly pokes fun at herself - and at everyone ready to criticize her - by ultimately making the novel a farce. A very dark farce, mind you, but a farce nonetheless. The "villain" character is extremely one-sided, as is the protagonist. And because of how the book ends, the reader tends to view Highsmith as one-sided, also.
In the end, neither side wins: If you're the Christian, Highsmith has pulled the wool over your eyes by getting you to read the book in the first place - you should be reading the Bible, you hypocrite. If you "agree" with her supposed views toward Western Religion, she pulled the wool over your eyes, too - you have become the cynical Arthur...it's easy to point fingers when you're the protagonist, huh?
I have come to expect sharp thrillers from Patricia Highsmith. "People Who Knock on the Door" is more than a thriller...it is a razor-sharp dark comedy that succeeds on every level.