Dan Schwent's Reviews > Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
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's review
Jul 06, 2016

it was ok
bookshelves: birthday-2016, 2016, 2016-books

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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Reading Progress

July 6, 2016 – Shelved
July 6, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
July 6, 2016 – Shelved as: birthday-2016
July 15, 2016 – Started Reading
July 17, 2016 –
page 13
July 17, 2016 –
page 56
July 17, 2016 –
page 90
July 17, 2016 –
page 113
July 18, 2016 –
page 113
44.14% "Even the murder was boring."
July 18, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
July 18, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-books
July 18, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane It always makes me wonder how they got compelling storylines out of certain books, like WICKED. OMG, the book bored me so badly!

message 2: by Alejandro (new) - added it

Alejandro Bummer that the book didn't work out for you :( Good job on the review.

message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan Schwent Thanks! I'm hoping The Summer That Melted Everything lives up to the hype.

message 4: by Carla Remy (new)

Carla Remy In the book, Guy goes through with the murder. In the Hitchcock movie he doesn't. Huge difference. Also, the book doesn't end on a carousel (Hitchcock knew what he was doing).

James Thane It does sound like a great concept; sorry to hear it didn't work out. I remember seeing the movie but haven't ever read the book.

message 6: by Meg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Meg totally agree with you. almost gave up a dozen times.

message 7: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan Schwent Meg wrote: "totally agree with you. almost gave up a dozen times."

It was such a disappointment considering how revered the film version is.

GABC Meg said it best! Thank goodness I finished it.

message 9: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan Schwent GABC wrote: "Meg said it best! Thank goodness I finished it."

It seemed like it was about a thousand pages long.

message 10: by GABC (new) - rated it 2 stars

GABC More than a 1000 pages too long, well said Dan!

Marjory I was bored too and didn’t like either character. I almost put it down too but when I got to the last 100 pages, I decided to go ahead and finish it. Ready to move to something else better.

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