Ustinov Studio, Bath
The writer gets a mystery visitor in Joanna Murray-Smith’s smartly self-referential salute to her riveting crime tales
‘The most important crime novelist in practice,” wrote Julian Symons of Patricia Highsmith in his 1972 book, Bloody Murder. Highsmith’s canonical status is confirmed by Joanna Murray-Smith’s teasing metaphysical thriller, in which the writer is visited in her Swiss hideaway by a youthful emissary from her New York publisher. The result is pitched somewhere between a portrait of the artist and a pastiche of a Highsmith novel with its capacity to create guilty unease.
Murray-Smith makes no bones about Highsmith’s tendency to abuse. She is seen, towards the end of her life, as a rancorous loner railing at the New York literary establishment, at most racial groups and at her visitor, Edward Ridgeway, who has come to beg her to write one more Ripley novel. “I can tell you have an inquiring mind but an inert imagination,” is one of her more polite put-downs, but Edward is allowed to stay on the condition that he comes up with a solution to a putative Ripley murder that host and guest have jointly hatched.
Switzerland review – Patricia Highsmith plots a playful murder