I am quite fond of Patricia Highsmith's writing, having, like so many others, been introduced to her through her Ripley series. I am thrilled that Norton decided to republished most of her lesser-known novels and stories, many of which I have read already, the others of which top my reading to-do list. The greatest problem with this edition is the annoying presence of frequent typos and less frequent grammatical errors. I found myself having to go back to figure out the meaning of a sentence to discover one of the words was obviously incorrect. I understand that the publishers were probably rushing to get this edition on the market so that they could capitalize from The Talented Mr. Ripley's box-office sucess; nevertheless, the sloppiness distracts from the enjoyment experienced in reading Highsmith's other works.
With that said, Strangers on a Train lives up to its reputation as a significant first effort by Highsmith. Those familiar with her work will recognize the beginnings of themes she continues to explore throughout her life. Primarily, this work presents a sympathetic murderer-- like Ripley-- a person who, the reader believes has to murder. Like Flannery O'Connor, Highsmith has an uncanny ability to place us in the minds of characters who face circumstances that seemingly force them to do unthinkable things. She follows with guilt-- or lack thereof-- that confronts characters based on the strength of their conscience. It reminds us that often the worst decisions are made at times when the choice seemed rational under the circumstances.
I have yet to view Hitchcock's take on this novel. It is, undoubtedly, immensely difficult to portray a story that takes place mostly inside the characters minds on the big screen. For that reason alone, those who have seen the movie should consider reading this book.