Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

16008208Fiction – Kindle edition. W.W. Norton, 2012. Originally published 1950. 292 pgs. Purchased. 

On a cross-country train trip, Guy Haines makes the mistake of telling a stranger his business. Upon hearing how much Guy desires a divorce from his estranged, pregnant wife in small town Texas, Charles Anthony Bruno decides to murder the young woman and free Guy from her derailing his career as a budding architect. The offer originally sounds like a joke to Guy; something Bruno offers as the two imbed in too much alcohol to pass the time.

But when Guy’s wife turns up dead at a county fair, he comes to realize that Bruno wasn’t joking about murdering Miriam or about the tit for tat offer Bruno made him on the train. In his mind, Bruno has held up his end of the deal. Now, it is time for Guy to hold up his end and murder Bruno’s father.

Bruno promises that neither of them will be caught because, after all, no knows the two are connected. Yet, Bruno cannot stop obsessing over Guy, inserting himself into Guy’s life with his new wife and insisting that the two are friends. Bruno’s obsession threatens to undermine the perfection of their crimes.

I purchased this book for Kindle after my book club selected it as one of our 2016 reads, but I missed the meeting for a now unknown reason and never read the book. Somehow, a good friend of mine from book club also missed out on reading this one, and we agreed to pick it as the inaugural selection for our online, we’ve-both-moved-and-miss-bookish-Boston book club.

I went into this book with two misconceptions: (a) that is would be a long read and (b) that it was a new publication. It wasn’t until I reached the publisher’s note at the end of the Kindle edition that I realized it is less than 300 pages and was originally published in 1950, becoming the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same name.

I haven’t (yet) seen Hitchcock’s adaption, but I found the story to be incredibly familiar while reading. At least twice I wondered if I hadn’t already read this one before, possibly back in my pre-blogging days when I wasn’t keeping track of the books I read. None of the twists and turns surprised me, including the ending.

That said, I really enjoyed the psychological aspects of Highsmith’s tale. I can understand why Hitchcock would be drawn to the story; the appeasement towards horror that Guy exhibits allows the sense of dread and concern to slowly build. The slow pace, though, made this an easy one to set aside, a reaction I did not at all expect given its genre.

For an interesting take on the queer dynamics behind the characters in this book, I highly recommend taking a look at Seth’s review on GoodReads. I was both bemused and surprised by his assessment. So many small moments that I overlooked!

The Classics Club:

This is my 38th book for the Classics Club, which challenges participants read and discuss fifty or more books considered to be classics within a five year period. My personal goal for this project is to read seventy-five books in three years ending on August 15, 2017. This deadline has since come and past, but I am still trying to work through my list. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post or project post.

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