Patricia Highsmith

Ripley Under Water

""...Highsmith has that talent to make you cheer for the guy who is in essence the ‘baddie’! " "


Tom Ripley is quietly living in luxury at his chateau at Villeperce. He has a past, however, that would not bear too much close scrutiny.He is certain that he has covered his tracks where murder and forgery are concerned. But when a certain American couple move in next door, he soon realises his every move is being shadowed.

Ripley fears his secrets may be discovered and he will stop at nothing to prevent that from happening.


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I have finally come to the end of my Ripley journey. This last, written in 1991 was Highsmith's penultimate novel before she died in 1995. Here we find Ripley enjoying life with his wife until the arrival of an American couple who know more about Tom than he cares to imagine. Highsmith introduces David and Janice Pritchard who are the most bizarre couple, even by Highsmith standards. There is much innuendo as to what brings them to Villeperce and how much they know about Tom to his face. It all goes back to the missing American, Murchison back in 'Ripley Under Ground' and the Derwatt forgeries. This has been an over-reaching story arc across the latter four Ripley books and now Highsmith tries to put this particular chapter in Tom's life to a close. As much as her creation will allow, anyway. From reading his exploits, Ripley is one who will always be wheeling and dealing and nearly being singed by the fire he insists on getting too close to! 'Ripley Under Water' did at times feel a little laboured and that Highsmith had either run out of steam or love for Ripley. There is rumour that she wrote it simply on the demands of her publisher, but then I can't imagine Highsmith being brow-beaten into doing anything she didn't want to do! Again, we have a comic feel to proceedings, especially with regards to the Pritchards who appear to have every kind of physical twitch and twerk imaginable. They both seem a pair of comedic grotesques. As with Highsmith, you get the sense by the end of the novel that Tom has yet again scrapped through by the skin of his teeth, but there is also that sense that Highsmith does so wonderfully, that not everything has been put to bed quite so, and that still something may surface one day. Highsmith's novel brings in one of Ripley's great fears – of water and drowning. Again, quite tongue in cheek when you start totting up how many people Tom has thrown into the water! Not quite a finale with fireworks, but still Highsmith has that talent to make you cheer for the guy who is in essence the 'baddie'! The Ripley novels (or 'Ripliad') will always be classed as one of the most ingenious – and at times, bonkers series in crime fiction.

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons