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Suspension Of Mercy Paperback – Aug 30 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; Reprint edition (Aug. 30 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393321975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393321975
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #598,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Six years after her death, Patricia Highsmith is in the middle of a renaissance. Since the release of Anthony Minghella's film of The Talented Mr. Ripley, her stock has been steadily rising among readers. Two reissues, A Suspension of Mercy and Strangers on a Train, feed the flames. In A Suspension of Mercy, American freelance writer Sydney becomes obsessed with the putative murder of his English wife, Alicia; in Strangers on a Train, the source for Hitchcock's 1953 classic, one man's guilty conscience disrupts two men's criminal plans. The movie rights to A Suspension of Mercy have been optioned by Warner Bros. for Heyday Films.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith. -- Time

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The land around Sydney and Alicia Bartleby's two-story cottage was flat, like most Suffolk country. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
...and this novel is an example. Because her characters often engage in activities that are illegal or, at least, immoral, American publishers have classified her work as "crime fiction," or something similar. Highsmith's fiction was decidedly NOT crime fiction, and people who read Grafton, Cornwell, or Kellerman might be disappointed. There are no good guys, bad guys, hunky detectives, loyal girl Fridays, or love stories. Just people we normally meet, taking extraordinary chances or exploring weird indulgences. Who hasn't fantasized about killing one's spouse (or parent, child, friend, enemy, etc.)?
Read any of Patricia Highsmith's work as if you were reading a classic novelist--Dostoevsky, perhaps. In Highsmith's vision, crime is a metaphor representing the oddly amoral choices we make out of our natural narcissism or neurosis. The discomfort you feel while reading a Highsmith novel? Be warned: that's your conscience scraping its fingernails across the blackboard of your soul. Pleasant? No. Dangerous, guilty, neurotic fun? You bet!
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Format: Paperback
Someone once said that Patricia Highsmith's novels are like bad dreams that keep us thrashing during the night. This one is no exception. I can't really call it a mystery becuase there really is no "who done it" - at least who done it in the terms that we would normally associate it. Rather, Ms. Highsmith comes across like Ruth Rendell or maybe Elmore Leonard. Not so much of a mystery as a crime novel where the plot really isn't the driving force, it's the characters. She, like Rendell and Leonard, has created a few characters who bounce off of one another like billiard balls and move the story along.
Sydney Bartleby, an aspiring author-to-be, imagines a plot to kill off his wife Alicia, a painter. Oh, he hasn't done it, mind you, but he has thought about it enough. So, when Alicia takes some time off away from ol' Syd because their marriage is reaching the straining point, Sydney begins a descent into the netherworld of his own imagination. Did he kill her and bury her in a carpet in the middle of the woods? The only person in the book who might even begin to resemble a "good guy", widowed Mrs. Lilybanks, their neighbor, isn't so sure. Sydney leads the police on in their investigation and when it appears that his own fictions will rock and destroy his own life - and he keeps going on - you just want to shake him. I found this to be just a little unbelieveable. The last couple of chapters will either surprise you or leave you asking, "Is that all there is?"
Ms. Highsmith hasn't been that well publicized in the U.S. until one of her earlier novels, "The Talented Mr. Ripley", was made into a movie. Still, like here classic debut novel, "Strangers on a Train", this one shows us what forces might be perculating just below the skin of everyday life. Elmore and Ruth would be proud.
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Format: Paperback
Having read most of Highsmith's novels I've become rather critical of her work in both good and bad ways. While undoubtedly gifted in generating suspense out of thin air, many of her stories are formulaic ... with the sense Highsmith is "manufacturing" the novel rather than it be a result of inspiration. However when Patricia Highsmith has a truly new and creative thought she produces great stuff (The Talented Mr Ripley, This Sweet Sickness, Strangers on a Train). How does Suspension of Mercy hold up?? Rather well, actually.
Suspension of Mercy is a story about a crime novelist and screenwriter who imagines what it would be like to kill his wife ... nothing more than a morbid 'hobby'. However when his wife walks out and keeps her whereabouts unknown people begin to talk, the police get involved, and ... it gets interesting. Highsmith does a wonderful job on focusing on the nervous, neurotic behaviour of the characters. While the story isn't entirely believable I found the ending to be rather good.
Bottom line: a very competent effort by Highsmith. Not among her very best, but certainly a polished piece of mystery writing.
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Format: Paperback
Although its plot occasionally stretches credulity, this is nonetheless a fine novel by one of the masters of suspense fiction. There are rarely any "good guys" in a Highsmith novel, and this one is no exception. Even the kindly neighbor Mrs. Lilybanks is too snoopy for her own good. Likewise, the police employ tactics that border on harrassment (though the suspect exacerbates the problem by withholding evidence and behaving guilty on purpose). I'd like to have seen the author create more convincing motivations for some of the protagonist's more bizarre behavior, especially that behavior which threatened to needlessly sabotage the literary successes he is so hungry for. But this is just a minor quibble. If you like your crime fiction without any pat moral tacked on at the end, this is your kind of novel. The suspense will twist a knot in your stomach and the clever turns of the plot will keep you guessing until the final page -- literally.
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