Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno meet on a train, they discover they have one thing in common: each of them has someone they would be better off without. When Haines' estranged wife winds up strangled, he finds himself caught in Bruno's psychotic, alcoholic web...
Yeah, that makes the book sound really gripping. It wasn't. The Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train is legendary so I thought I'd give the book that inspired it a shot. I would have been better off watching Throw Mama From the Train again.
The setup is classic noir: two men, two murders, no complications. The problem is that neither man is all that interesting. Guy Haines is too by the book and Bruno is an alcoholic mama's boy, more sad that anything else.
It may have been a case of wrong book, wrong time, but the engine just didn't turn over for me with this one. I was pretty bored for the first half. After that, I was just ready for it to be over. The first murder was boring, the second was kind of illogical considering how flimsy things were, and the rest was just running out the clock.
I will say that Patricia Highsmith, like Jim Thompson, writes a very believable alcoholic psychopath. From her Wikipedia entry, I'd say a lot of it came from experience.
I'm going to paraphrase Roger Ebert (I think) here: Strangers on a Train is a gripping short story squeezed into 280 pages. Two out of five stars.
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