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Strangers on a Train

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  18,939 ratings  ·  1,765 reviews
The world of Patricia Highsmith has always been filled with ordinary people, all of whom are capable of very ordinary crimes. This theme was present from the beginning, when her debut novel, Strangers on a Train, galvanized the reading public. Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in th ...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published August 28th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1950)
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Andrea After reading Patricia Highsmith's first novel Strangers On a Train, Alfred Hitchcock realized what a gem he'd come upon. He immediately sent his agen…moreAfter reading Patricia Highsmith's first novel Strangers On a Train, Alfred Hitchcock realized what a gem he'd come upon. He immediately sent his agents to purchase the film rights from Highsmith, which she agreed to for a paltry $7,500. Unbeknownst to her however was that it was the great director and master of suspense making the offer. Hitchcock was thrilled; Highsmith, not so much.
Also noteworthy, Raymond Chandler co-authored the screenplay.(less)

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Dan Schwent
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Nilufer Ozmekik
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
After Eight Perfect Murders and rewatching Hitchcock’s classic and my favorite comedy version of Throw Momma from train ( Devito was so brilliant, if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it) I decided to read the original story that inspired those brilliant movies.

Overall: the thrilling idea about each person’s capability to take a life when the evil side sits on the driver seat and take you to the darkest highways is brilliant but I found the changes at the scripts were necessary and gre
When I was in my 20s- living in Toronto and traveling on the train to visit my parents 4 hours away- I always thought there was nothing worse than trying to read my book while having some annoying fellow passenger try to start a conversation...but then I watched Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and realized- Nope it could have been worse.

I usually have a hard time reading the book once I have watched the movie, but Patricia Highsmith's novel is very different than Hitchcock's adaptation
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: brave travellers

Everything has its opposite close beside it.

Why don't people write thrillers like Patricia Highsmith anymore? This, her first novel, boasts an iconic plot, gruelling tension, characters with psychological complexities, and plenty of intellect to balance out murderous actions. Plus, a psychopath. She's so good at the psychopaths.

I'm not surprised Alfred Hitchcock found this book worthy inspiration for his 1951 film. It's clever. Two men meet on a train journey. Guy, our 'hero', on his way to
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

In order to prove that NO, I DON’T ONLY READ PORNOS THANK YOU VERY LITTLE I begged Steve to pull me out of my downward spiral and buddy read this one with me. When my husband asked his nightly question “what are you reading????” I was so very proud to say a classic rather than smut. I also jumped at the chance to say it was a book written by the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and that this novel became one of my favorite Hitchcock f
Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
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“My mistake was telling a stranger my private business.” — Guy Haines

This is my first Highsmith book, which is a shame because I have seen most movie adaptations of her novels. Throw Mama from the Train is one of my all-time favorite movies, and now I’ve finally read the book that the movie is loosely based on.

The book itself is far from comedic. Written in 1950, this gritty noir novel is mostly set in New York. Guy Haines, an up and coming architect, meets Charlie Bruno on a train bound for
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it

Architect Guy Haines is on a train to Texas to see his estranged wife Miriam to discuss their divorce. Before long Charles Bruno, a rich n'er do well, sits down opposite him. Haines talks about his problems with Miriam and Bruno talks about his hatred for his father.

Before long Bruno makes a suggestion: the two men should "exchange murders." That is, Bruno should kill Miriam and Haines should kill Bruno's dad - and having no demonstrable motive - neither man will be suspected.

Haines strongly o
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2016
3.5 stars. After reading The Talented Mr. Ripley, I confess I really did want to like this book more. But, given this was her debut novel it's pretty darn good and does make one think: Could a manipulative psychopath really drive one to this kind of evil by the arousal of fear?? A seemingly normal “Guy” and psychopath Bruno are strangers on a train whose secrets revealed lead to Bruno suggesting they create the “perfect murder". Guy doesn’t take him seriously, just wants to be rid of him, and is ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Any kind of person can murder. Purely circumstances and not a thing to do with temperament! People get so far - and it gets just the least little thing to push them over the brink. Anybody. Even your grandmother. I know!

A disturbing proposition that I happen to strongly disagree with, but I can't think of a more able writer to raise doubts in my mind and to argue the merits of the case. According to her biographical notes, Patricia Highsmith started her study of perverted human nature at
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This was Patricia Highsmith’s first novel, initially published in 1950, and most often credited as being the first “Murder Swap” novel!

It inspired the Alfred Hitchcock movie, by the same name but if you THINK you know this story, because you watched the movie, you don’t!

Mr. Hitchcock actually changed quite a bit after the initial conversation between two strangers on the train, where a suggestion was made that the men “swap murders”.

“Some people are better off dead”, Bruno remarks, (to Guy) “li
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“People, feelings, everything! Double! Two people in each person. There's also a person exactly the opposite of you, like the unseen part of you, somewhere in the world, and he waits in ambush.”
― Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train


I put off watching the great Hitchcock's take on this Highsmith classic until I actually read it. The book has a neat narrative symmetry and logic to it. It contains a lot of the early hints of some of her later, great Ripley novels: obsessiveness, insanity, met
David Schaafsma
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Possibly I have been reading too many Cornell Woolrich and Jim Thompson gutter noir novels, tightly constructed, no waste, down and dirty, but I thought this was both elegant and about 1/3 longer than it needed to be. Patricia Highsmith imo gets high marks for this book that Hitchcock made into a classic movie, but it is also full of too many rather dull and sophisticated suburbanites. And yes, I am also reading #34 of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot so I have a fairly high tolerance usually f ...more

Nightmare on a train. The premise is simple enough. Two men meet on a train and have a weird discussion about swapping murders. Patricia Highsmith’s intriguing but imperfect tale is definitely a chilling portrait of obsessive psychopathy. It also asks an unsettling question: Do we all have a dark side?

This book is short and mostly to the point, but it could have been shorter, perhaps even a novella. Told in third person omniscient point of view, Strangers on a Train feat
Nancy Oakes
"And Bruno, he and Bruno. Each was what the other had not chosen to be, the cast-off self, what he thought he hated, but perhaps in reality loved."

Strangers on a Train is another case where most people have seen the movie but haven't read the book or didn't know there was a novel behind it. In this case, if you've seen the movie, and then go to read Highsmith's book, you end up with two different entities. The basic plot is the same -- two men, total strangers, meet on a train; one (Bruno) is a
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Budding architect Guy Haines is currently in the process of trying to divorce unfaithful wife Miriam, during a train journey he meets Charles Bruno a playboy how’s father won’t allow him to have access to all of he’s money in fear of wasting it.

Bruno strikes up the idea of him killing Miriam, whilst Haines returns the favour of murdering Bruno’s father.
Two deaths - No motives.
Guy laughs the suggestion off until Bruno confirms that he has killed Miriam whilst Guy was away in Mexico.

I’d already se
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I've liked other Highsmith books more than I liked this one, but I still thought this book was good, although some parts of it definitely could have been shortened. I listened to the audiobook and that may be why my chief impression of Bruno is that he was a whiny, self-pitying drunk. Maybe the narrator did too good a job. Bruno was nothing like the charismatic sociopath that Highsmith created in her Ripley series. I saw the movie based on this book eons ago and all I remember is that both actor ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

As I have said earlier, it is a dicey affair to one-star a classic on GR. Some people may see it as blasphemy: and maybe, one can expect a lynch mob. But what to do? I did not like this book: could not bring myself to finish it even; so one-star is the only option.

My only acquaintance with Patricia Highsmith before this novel was The Terrapin, a terrifying short story. So I was pretty sure I would like this novel, even though the story was familiar to me from Hitchco
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with strong minds; lovers of Hitchcock
Shelves: mystery
3.5 stars, rounded down because this genre isn’t my favorite.

Patricia Highsmith knows how to build an atmosphere of tension and suspense. She makes her characters seem like bugs caught in webs, the more they struggle to extricate themselves, the tighter the web becomes...and the spider is sitting there in view, watching the struggle, enjoying it really. She is simply the master of psychological distress.

You would think that Guy Haines would be a man hard to understand. Charley Bruno is a psychop
Since I haven't seen this movie, I wasn't aware that this book was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1951 film with the same title until after I finished reading this book. Published in 1950, this book is remarkable in the sense that it has a modern, contemporary tone.

Guy Haines, the architect, and Charles Anthony Bruno, the wealthy shiftless wanderer, meet on the train and share personal details.

From the blurb:
Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns ou
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Strangers on a Train has been called the longest gay cruising joke in history, and there's a definite logic to this.

Thanks to the Hitchcock movie, everyone knows the setup: two young men (Guy and Bruno) meet on a train. They strike up a conversation. They go back to Bruno's compartment. They have a few drinks. And then...they hatch a plot for a double murder.

Like all great satire, Strangers on a Train is very much a joke on the reader: if Highsmith had described what really happened (=they fuck)
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, i-said
I went into this already familiar with Hitchcock’s film version of the same story. The opening premise of the film and HighSmith’s novel are the same. Two strangers meet on the train and discuss among other things, people in their lives: a Wife, a Father, who they would be better off without. One of these strangers, Charles Bruno, is an extremely well imagined sociopath, while the other, Guy, is a mild mannered architect whose role in this story I never entirely accept. (view spoiler) ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This was one of the rare cases where the movie was actually better than the book. The novel unfortunately had a few too many slow spots where the plot just dragged, but overall I did still enjoy the story and the characters.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After having meant to read Patricia Highsmith forever, I was a little disappointed with this. The premise is fantastic and the beginning of the novel excellent. Guy Haines, an architect, is going to meet his wife, Miriam, in the hope of obtaining a divorce. On the train he meets Charles Anthony Bruno, who bemoans his wealthy father. Bruno, inebriated for most of the book, has a great suggestion. He will murder the unfaithful Miriam, if Guy will rid him of his father. There is nothing to tie the ...more
Adah Udechukwu
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Strangers On A Train was worth the hype. It was worth my time.
Natalie Richards
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-book
I may have found myself a new favourite author. This book was full of tension as it raced towards its ending and I did not want to put it down. Looking forward to reading more of her books.
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Why is it so much easier to unburden yourself to a stranger? Is it that awareness of anonymity? Is it the knowledge that this person has no history, no preconceived notions upon which you might be judged? Whatever the underlying reason, I’ve always found this to be true. I’m pretty sure that the entire realm of internet communication is so prevalent in part because of this truth. In this unforgettable work, Patricia Highsmith examines the sinister outcome of a chance meeting, and a momentary int ...more
Maria (Big City Bookworm)

3.5 stars

Strangers on a Train is one of those novels that I constantly kept hearing about. I knew it was an older novel and that it is considered a classic thriller, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. It’s no secret that I love a good psychological thriller, but I’ve only read recent books from within this genre so I decided to broaden my range.

Strangers on a Train tells the story of Charles Anthony Bruno and Guy Haines, two men that meet while they are on the same train. As the men
Two men meet  on a train ride to Texas, worlds collide, and their lives  are changed forever. 

Charles Bruno is a spoiled rich kid grown up now into a wealthy young man wanting more. The only path he can see to "more" is for his father to die. Bruno has never had a job and feels such a thing is not necessary for him.  He is a lazy, slovenly lush. Despicable.  Insane. And then some.

Guy is the poor sap Bruno lays his murder  plot out on. Having learned that Guy is separated  from his wife, and tha
Roman Clodia
This was Hightsmith's first novel and while the premise is fascinating, it's not nearly as tense or sophisticated as the later Ripley books (the 'Ripliad'). There are places where it's hard to understand characters' motivations (Guy and all that faffing around about accepting/refusing/accepting the commission). And the ending is clumsy.

That said, it's easy to trace the elements that Highsmith worked up more richly in Ripley: questions of morality vs. amorality, the uneasy relationship between tw
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
A genius idea drowned in a soup of too many uninteresting characters. Most of the book could have been edited down to one taut, terrific short story.
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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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