THE SELECTED STORIES OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
In his foreword to this big posthumous collection, the late Graham Greene deemed the inimitable crime novelist Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; Strangers on a Train) "the poet of apprehension." Although the short story doesn't allow Texas-born expatriate Highsmith to take menace to the creepy heights achieved in her novels, this volume shows the range and depth of her misanthropy. Divided into sections that sort the cruelty of humans into different guises, the stories range from the abuse and neglect of innocent animals and children (Highsmith demonstrates a tenderness toward innocents that balances and highlights her dark world view) to the stupidity or deadly self-indulgence of different characters—including a man who spends his entire life writing novels in his head. The evil that Highsmith probes can be subtle. In "The Network," for example, a middle-aged woman in Manhattan serves as the den mother of city dwellers cleaving together out of a common fear of the dangers of New York. The woman is shown busily spinning a web of fear and bad feeling under the guise of doing good. Other stories are at the opposite end of the subtlety scale. In "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind," a hotheaded tycoon marches inexorably toward a crime laid out in the first pages with the beautiful precision of a place setting by Martha Stewart. As with the productions of that gifted hostess, the thrill here is in the unexpected flourishes. In every story, Highsmith demonstrates her brilliant and inimitable talent for making even the coldest characters galvanizing. Entertaining enough for the beach, this collection should be compulsory for students of the psychological thriller. (Aug.)
Forecast:Hefty enough to daunt casual film-influenced readers, this collection will thrill hardcore fans, and should backlist well.