tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > A Suspension of Mercy

A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith
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it was amazing
bookshelves: mysteries, psychology
Recommended for: any lover of mysteries &/or psychology

This is the 5th novel I've read by Highsmith. I usually think of her as the 4th of the 4 mystery/crime-fiction writers that I've read that i think are truly great. The hierarchy having been generally: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, & Patricia Highsmith. Now, having read this, Highmsith's position in the hierarchy is less clearly in last place. This was amazing. All of the bks I've read by her so far have involved psychologically perceptive ensarings in subtly twisted minds. All have been painful. This one was probably the most subtle yet. 2 fairly ordinary people, a married couple, have some minor quirks. Their bad decisions follow one after the other in believable ways that're related to their quirks. Things cd go one way or the other - almost all the way to the end. But the bad decisions eventually lead to a tragedy that's even more tragic b/c of its sheer stupid unnecessariness. Highsmith is fantastic at sucking the reader into a world of little things that accumulate into big things. Reading her bks is like watching a horror movie where a character is obviously about to do something stupidly fatal - the viewer sits there thinking: "Don't do that you idiot! The killer'll get you then!" But Highsmith's far more subtle & perceptive than any horror filmmaker whose work I've ever experienced. She's so damned good that I'll probably read more by her EVEN THOUGH THE STORIES ARE SO DEPRESSING.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 27, 2009 – Shelved
August 27, 2009 – Shelved as: mysteries
August 27, 2009 – Shelved as: psychology
August 27, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Greg Tentatively, for me, the top 3 American crime authors are Patricia Highsmith and Ross MacDonald. If you haven't read Ross M, you're in for a surprise! Hammet is fascinating, very stylish but, personally, I have to take notes during the reading of his books, but I do like challenging plots. Early Chandler I find too racist, but later Chandler, like his screenplay for "Double Indemnity" and a later novel, "Playback" are very good. James Ellroy, yes, also very good. And i can't leave out Rex Stout or Ellery Queen. Then the great noir authors: Cornell Voolrich (I have a keyboard failing and a certain letter doesn't vork.), Jim Thompson, Horace McCoy, Chester Himes, and the most fun crime author of all, John Dickson Carr (he is the king of impossible crimes and dark comedy.) And these are just the American crime authors! But I've read 10+ Highsmith's, and to use a cliche, she really transcends the genre.


tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE Thanks for the recommendations! I'm hardly an expert on crime fiction, there was a time when I thought it an 'inferior genre'. As such, I've only 'recently' (like w/in the last 15 yrs or so) started to appreciate it. I've heard of everyone you mention except for Horace McCoy but I haven't read MacDonald & Carr. Himes I plan to read more of, Woolrich didn't do much for me but I'll give him a 2nd chance, Thompson I point-blank cdn't stand but I'll give him a 2nd chance too. Stout & Queen I probably read long ago but they didn't make much of an impression on me. Lately, I like Fredric Brown, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, & Paco Ignacio Taibo II. There are so many!! Tomorrow I'll probably go to my favorite used bk store during my lunch break & get some MacDonald & Carr on yr recommendation. When I'll find time to read them is a different story.


Greg tENTATIVELY, wrote: "Thanks for the recommendations! I'm hardly an expert on crime fiction, there was a time when I thought it an 'inferior genre'. As such, I've only 'recently' (like w/in the last 15 yrs or so) starte..."

Thanks for reading my post! Next year I'm reading non-English language but translated (natch) crime novels (any time period) and then in 2020 it's all British crime fiction. (But I still read other stuff, this year I finished the 7th volume of Proust's "Time", for example and read too many political books, so no more of them!)
Horace McCoy you may be familiar too, after all. Have you seen the film, "They Shoot Horses Don't They" from the 1960s? It had a Best Picture nomination, didn't get the Oscar, but very good movie. After all the raves about Thompson's 'Killer Inside Me", I could only give it a personal 3.6 rating, and thought his "Savage Night" just as good, and rated it to 3.6. But his novella, "The Frightening Frammis" I thought better than both. (Oh, out of my 1200 ratings, less than 5% get 5 stars, so I''m stingy at ratings.) I think Ross MacDonald has been a bit overlooked given the fame of John D. MacDonald, and I do like John D. but Ross is great, the first book I read by him, "The Vay some people Die" surprised me as I'd not heard of him either and pulled a book off a library bookshelf at random. His "Zebra Striped Hearse" is very good, and his "The Chill" and "Galton Case" are my favorites of his so far. John Dickson Carr does a lot of shorts and "Blind Man's Hood" is great, as is his novel, "To Vake the Dead", my favorite novel of his so far. Voolrich had a tough life and horrendous final year or so, so he pours himself into his vork. Have you read "I Married a Dead Man"? Very good and no doubt inspired 100s of movies and every soap opera ever made. And he did author "Rear Vindov", the sensational Hitchcock film. Stout's "Fer-de-Lance" and "Murder by the Book" are my favorites. Queen's "American Gun Mystery" I thought very good. Yea, 'crime fiction' is never called "great literature" but some of this stuff is sensational. The best. I think the 2 of us do agree: Patricia Highsmith is the best of all American crime authors. She's just brilliant and never achieved the attention she deserved during her lifetime. Montalban's "Southern Seas" is already on my reading list for next year, and I've added your suggestions. Next year, so far, my list includes also Micheal Genelin (Slovakia), Manchette (France), Martin-Pratesis (Barcelona), Leo Malet's "Rue de la Gare (France), George Simeon of Belgium, Durrenmattt (Svitzerland), Phillip Kerr (Berlin) not to mention numerous Nordic authors, Mankell of course, Lackberg, Nesbo of course, Hoeg, Sjovall and Vahloo (Apparently the "godparents of Scandinavian crime" but I read that some place, don't knov for sure), Ake Edvardsson, Stein Riverton's "Iron Chariot" (oh, I love that title), Anne Holt, and Farin Forsum and more. Looking forvard to 2019!!!


Greg Oh, and no expert here. BUT, might get an MBA or Phd in 'Vorld Crime Literature', either that or finish up my training to be a Personal Trainer and then teach aerobics to seniors (like me, yes). Or, indulge in my hobby of typing avay at screenplays-7 so far, none sold! Or, umm, just go to the beach and enjoy the eye candy. But is that sexual harrassment today? You just gotta think "Nude Yoga" is over, politically, that is.


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