The Talented Mr. Ripley (Patricia Highsmith)

I was in the mood for a psychological thriller, so I finally unearthed my copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I haven’t seen the 1999 film (with young Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow!), but I’ve been meaning to read the book ever since I mooched a copy, although I still have to “do a Blooey” (er, a term my book club friends coined for my compulsion for “upgrading” mass market paperbacks into trade paperbacks and trade paperbacks into hardcovers) on it — it’s a movie cover and a mass market paperback.

The Talented Mr. Ripley was written in 1955, and is the first of a series of novels featuring a conman and anti-hero named Tom Ripley (the other books being Ripley Under Ground, Ripley’s Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water). The novel was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

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The Patient’s Eyes by David Pirie

Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite detectives (alongside Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators’ Jupiter Jones and Nancy Drew). I was a big Sherlock Holmes fan when I was a kid, and I loved The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is why I got this book, because I thought it would be really interesting.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The first in the Murder Rooms trilogy, The Patient’s Eyes details how the young Arthur Conan Doyle was bored in med school and was all but ready to drop out when he met Dr. Joseph Bell (supposedly the real-life basis for Sherlock Holmes), a surgeon/teacher (moonlighting as the Edinburgh police’s secret weapon!) who took him on as his assistant (mostly to disprove his cynicism, making Doyle the actual Watson).

After a tragic loss (something which I feel would be explained in the succeeding books), Doyle moves away from Edinburgh to start over, shakily establishing the foundations of his medical practice. And then he meets a new patient, Heather Grace, who is suffering from an eye complaint, psychological trauma, and has a mystery stalker.

Fascinated by his new patient, he decides to call on Dr. Bell to help him solve the mystery terrorizing Heather Grace, before it’s too late… Who is trying to scare Heather Grace to death? The uncle with a massive collection of exotica (also her trustee)? The perpetually cheerful (or so it seems) almost-fiance? Or the unscrupulous doctor attracted to Heather Grace, who is smarting from Doyle’s “piracy” of his patient?

The novel skims over elements from the Sherlock Holmes stories, such as the Speckled Band, The Solitary Cyclist, and Wisteria Lodge. It’s a murder mystery that twists and turns with a lot of surprises, and really, at the end of the novel I was totally scared out of my wits that I shoved the book under the blanket because the cover was freaking me out.

Now, if only I can find copies of the two other books in the series…

My copy: trade paperback, from the Powerbooks bargain bin

My rating: 4/5 stars