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A Dog's Ransom

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  396 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Long out of print, this Highsmith classic resurfaces with a vengeance. The great revival of interest in Patricia Highsmith continues with the publication of this novel that will give dog owners nightmares for years to come. With an eerie simplicity of style, Highsmith turns our next-door neighbors into sadistic psychopaths, lying in wait among white picket fences and manic ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1972)
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Animal Farm by George OrwellHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Species and Animals in Titles
76th out of 562 books — 118 voters
The Price of Salt by Patricia HighsmithA Suspension of Mercy by Patricia HighsmithThe Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder by Patricia HighsmithNothing That Meets the Eye by Patricia HighsmithThe Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Best of Patricia Highsmith
21st out of 81 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sep 27, 2007 Cynthia rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like short stories
this story started off well but by midpoint it really started to ramble. the ending was disappointing; as the pages slipped away I kept thinking "How is she going to end this??" The author apparently was thinking the same thing; she just kind of cut it off abruptly with a final event that was about as satisfying as "and then I woke up and realized it was all a dream."
Apr 08, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing
This is a very disturbing story - surprise surprise - that is what you get when you enter the world of Patricia Highsmith. This is a story of a psycho who dognaps (is that the correct term?) a pet dog and gets a ransom for his deed. He killed the dog right away - and a nice policeman goes after the dog-killer. Which leads to that cops downfall.

What's interesting is Highsmith's well-known love for the animal kingdom and how she plays with that angle with respect to the policeman's eventually (ev
Dec 11, 2011 Trish rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime-mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2008 Pamela rated it liked it
As always, Patricia Highsmith, a master of psychological suspense, offers unexpected and disturbing twists and turns. If this novel, set in New York City during the late 1960s, isn't quite up to the level of her masterpieces Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, it's still a page-turner.
Mar 13, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok
This book was especially interesting given the recent Gov. Spitzer scandal. The main character, Clarence, is a goody goody newby cop who gets pushed into being bad and then finding himself in the hands of his colleagues. All of this because of a kidnapped dog. This is supposed to be a social satire but, I think it falls a little short really. It is odd that the cop, Clarence, is so moved by the plight of a middle-aged couple whose dog has been kidnapped when there are rapes and larcenies that ne ...more
Bri Ana
May 28, 2008 Bri Ana rated it liked it
Certainly not my favorite Highsmith, but Highsmith being a favorite sets the bar high. It's a quick read thanks to her minimal prose and fast paced plos... As I read it, I couldn't help but see it as an darkly twisted alternate universe take on "Confederacy of Dunces", not for specific parallels but rather the odd cast of characters who manage to be both stereotypical and idiosyncratic in the same breath.
Aug 16, 2008 Fabio rated it liked it
Shelves: thrillers
Patricia Highsmith is the master of stories where ordinary people starts piling up small mistakes one on top of another, until they are completely drowned by the events. In "A Dog's Ransom", the initial sin of a young police officer is to take care of a case that everyone else would have paid no attention to at all. He gets involved too much, up to the point where his private life is affected, and from then it gets completely disrupted. This element can be found also in the the plot of "Stranger ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Brett Favre
This tale of a pathetic loner who kills the poodle of an upper middle class Manhattan couple, sends ransom notes and money demands, and is pursued by an idealistic, Cornell-educated rookie cop, left me feeling skeeved, as much by its datedness (the cop's temporary-secretary, cop-hating girlfriend constantly referring to police as "fuzz") as by the story and unsavory characters.
Nov 12, 2009 Lauren rated it it was ok
???? I haven't been so disappointed in an ending since I read Lovely Bones. I really like Highsmith and recommend her other novels and short stories. But it seems like she gave up on her story and ended it very abruptly. I would have given it a much higher rating because I enjoyed the plot and her characters, but the lack of a credible ending weakens the book.
Apr 11, 2010 Caroline rated it it was ok
It kills me to write this.

If A Dog's Ransom had been written by some two-bit writer ... If I'd merely picked up the book at a flea market without expectations instead of seeking it out ... If I hadn't read and loved the works of Patricia Highsmith in the past ... well, maybe I'd rate the book a tad higher.

But it was disappointing. Dull. Redundant. The ending left me feeling nothing.

I still adore Ms. Highsmith and will seek out another of her works I've yet to read. Or perhaps I'll return to the
May 11, 2014 Hans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About a year ago, I discovered the "Most Read Authors" feature on GoodReads. I discovered two things that bothered me: 1) James Patterson was in my top 10 most read authors & 2) the first female author appeared in the 25th spot (J.K. Rowling and only because there were 7 Harry Potter books). This book marks the important shift that there is now a female author in the top 10 (Patricia Highsmith) and Mr. Patterson moves out of the top 10. Who needs professional sports when I can deal with my o ...more
Maria João Fernandes
Mais uma vez Patricia Highsmith faz um retrato arrepiante de um pequeno grupo de sociopatas, cujos caminhos se cruzam para originar confusão e destruição. Á medida que o pior de cada um deles é despertado, o seu comportamento amoral tem consequências devastadoras na vida dos cidadãos chamados "comuns".

Estamos em Nova Iorque, onde o crime, a ganância, a violência e tudo o que há de mais obscuro neste mundo adquirem contornos mais definidos.

Um casal perde a sua cadela, Lisa e reporta o acontecime
Sharon Speevak
Jan 23, 2012 Sharon Speevak rated it it was ok
Ultimately, this was a novel about obsession. However, it seemed to take a long time making up its mind about what it wanted to be when it grew up and I was frankly annoyed at the stark, dry writing style. Had the story been as tight as the manner in which it was written, it may have been well served by such a style. As it was, it just made the ride to the bleak end all the more unpleasant. I also found the characters only marginally believable. I had trouble buying into their responses to event ...more
Henry Paulus
why-Highsmith's definitive novel. also it brings out a dimension of what Zizek calls subjectivization of non-subjectivized object. This is done via rending palpable the vanishing mediator stage of story telling that lies in the middle of a simple story of terrorized regular folks vs total immersion into psychological pathological immersion into criminal psychotic mind: the novel portrays both and thus brings out this uncanny dimension that both of the previous kinds of blah and overdone and conv ...more
Jason McNamara
Apr 07, 2012 Jason McNamara rated it it was ok
Highsmith always writes great characters but doesn't always know what to do with them (The Boy Who Followed Ripley for example) and this is another one. Once the murder occurs half way through the book the plot begins to recycle scenes and spin its wheels until its abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. Avoid.
Jan 19, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing
I keep fearing that Patricia Highsmith's going to fall of the pedestal I put her on, but it hasn't happened yet. To the contrary, this again turned out to be one of the best of hers that I've read. Which also means one of the best books I've ever read in general, because I really agree with the blurb by one Auberon Waugh from Harpers & Queen: "One thinks of comparing Miss Highsmith only with herself; by any other standard of comparison, one must simply cheer."

There are a couple of scenes tha
Jul 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it did not like it
I learned that just because I liked one Patricia Highsmith book, I may not like another. Nothing much happens here except a couple's dog is kidnapped at the outset of the novel. I abandoned it after about 100 pages.

Go pick up The Talented Mr. Ripley by Highsmith instead. You won't be disappointed!
Oct 11, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
Quintessential Highsmith, where seemingly small decisions by the characters (here, the decision by a young cop to give extra attention to a dognapping case) lead in a downward spiral to...I won't give it away. As always, Highsmith does a great job with internal narration and the everyday details of her characters' lives.
Cindy Huffman
Jun 15, 2013 Cindy Huffman rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 14, 2013 Polen rated it did not like it
Shelves: waste-o-time
So much disappointment from this book.
*warning: contains spoilers*

The book is basically a dog being kidnapped. The kidnapper Kenneth asks for ransom twice, although he has actually killed the dog the moment he got his hands on him.

The reasons I bothered reading this book:
1) Highsmith has written 2 other mystery novels that I loved (strangers on a train, talented mr ripley)
2) the book started off really good.

The kidnapper was revealed at the very beginning, which I found very interesting, becau
Dana Jennings
Aug 10, 2014 Dana Jennings rated it really liked it
Published in 1972, A Dog's Ransom was heralded by the press at the time:

"Highsmith edges her readers toward the insane territory inhabited by . . . readers are sure to be left feeling by turns startle, oppressed, amused and quest." New York Times Book Review
"No one has created psychological suspense more densely and deliciously satisfying." Vogue

The theft of Reynolds' dog is the instigating incident that precipitated the collision of the lead characters and placed them in their moral quandary. T
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"The great revival of interest in Patricia Highsmith continues with the publication of this novel that will give dog owners nightmares for years to come. With an eerie simplicity of style, Highsmith turns our next-door neighbors into sadistic psychopaths, lying in wait among white picket fences and manicured lawns. In A Dog's Ransom, Highsmith blends a savage humor with brilliant social satire in this dark tale of a highminded criminal who hits a wealthy Manhattan couple where it hurts t
Bananas Foster
Dec 03, 2014 Bananas Foster rated it it was amazing
Wow ... how timely it was/is to read this book NOW, in the wake of Ferguson. To be in the mind of a cop, to use force or not..... The dog-napping is really pretty minor in the big picture.

This was a slim novel, though longer than a novella, but it packed a lot of local color about ordinary neighborhoods in NYC circa 1972. Not only set in 1972, but written in 1972, so from that era's perspective. Attitudes toward authority, cops in particular, not only by "the youth" but middle aged people as wel
Jul 20, 2015 WORDMAN rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Dog’s Ransom is written by the same woman who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley. So yes, I was a bit intrigued whence otherwise I would not have been.

“A dog disappears.
A ransom is demanded.
The well-meaning, middle-aged New York couple-childless, generous-pay up. And pay again.
The kidnapper-angry, perhaps psychotic- tricks them.
The decent young policeman, obsessed with the case, falls deeper and deeper into involvement with the criminal, and with his victims.
A “minor” crime inexorably grows into an
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Highsmith's prose is simple and unadorned. It is almost like a reading primer for adult learners sometimes; but the content is far from simplistic.

A middle aged couple's beloved poodle is kidnapped; a twisted outsider escalates his hobby of writing poison pen letters to those he considers unfairly priviliged; a confused young policeman tries to find meaning, love and honour. It all comes together in a stark, uncompromising narrative where innocence has no place.

It also makes an interesting com
Carla Remy
Sep 03, 2015 Carla Remy rated it really liked it
It's surprising that Highsmith, who would have said she loved pets more than people, didn't play with this tension more (there is The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder, which I did read - but those stories were specifically about animals enacting revenge on humans). This novel was intense, the reaction of the dog owners to the kidnapping and so forth of their beloved pet. So the first part of it was predictably emotional for me. Then it became a typical Highsmithian tale of revenge, guilt, r ...more
A mio parere, in letteratura ci sono diversi tipi di durezza.
Ad esempio quella epicamente tragica della Agota (Trilogia della città di K) o quella irriparabilmente nevrotica alla Canetti (Auto da fe) o quella di questo racconto, depressa e deprimente.
Ma tutte, sempre seconde me, derivano dalla entomologica (cioè, distaccata e fredda) vivisezione psicologica che gli autori citati fanno dei loro personaggi e delle situazioni nelle quali li fanno agire.
In questo noir il tratto è la vacuità (la stup
Jan 07, 2016 Iris rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
Honestly - I wanted much more about the dog.
Sharon Bautista
Apr 04, 2016 Sharon Bautista rated it liked it
Perhaps an odd choice for my first written encounter with Highsmith, but I didn't want the faces of Hollywood actors in mind when reading. I have no regrets about this introduction. The somewhat silly premise served well to surface Highsmith's skills at turning the most mundane sinister. In fact, I am one rarely to experience nightmares but had several scary dreams while reading this book. Warning, this novel does have the pace of a police interrogation--it's worth hanging on.
Jun 24, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
It's not unusual that Ms. Highsmith would write so many books on the same theme: innocence disguised as guilt. What's unusual is that she found so many variations on this topic, and in "A Dog's Ransom," her hero devolves into paranoia for the simplest of reasons -- he's really stupid. But in Officer Clarence Duhamel, Highsmith has created a character of labyrinthine stupidity: his superficial ineptitude masks a deeper, more spiritual idiocy. Ms. Highsmith has been compared to the great existenti ...more
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Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations over the years.

She lived with her grandmother, mother and later step-father (her mother divorced her natural father six months before 'Patsy' was born and married Stanley Highsmith) in Fort Worth before moving with her parents to New York in
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“Dusk was falling quickly. It was just after 7 P.M., and the month was October.” 2 likes
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