Picks and Pans Review: Ripley Under Water
Reading Highsmith's delightful odd duck of a mystery is in some ways like reading Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Both give you plenty of French village charm, jaunts to the boulangerie, chats with the gardener. But instead of hunting for truffles, these folks are searching for corpses.
Ripley Under Water marks Tom Ripley's fifth appearance as High-smith's unconventional hero. A transplanted American, married to the charming Héloïse and living like a squire in the French countryside, he's so courtly and suave, so fond of his dahlia and harpsichord lessons, that it's a shame he's such an amoral murdering rascal. But that's Tom for you. His latest adventure begins when an irksome American couple, the Pritchards, for some unexplained reason move into the village deliberately to bedevil Ripley. The pesky pair photograph his house and phone him pretending to be one of the many corpses in Tom's past. Pritchard is intent on exposing Tom for having dispatched the art dealer Murchison with a bottle of Margaux to the cranium. As Pritchard patiently drags the village canals for Murchison's bones, Tom feels a growing desire to do him in, too.
Will Tom have to bloody his hands again? Will Pritchard find the bones? It always feels as if something is about to happen (and sometimes it does). With its wonderfully vivid sense of place and character (especially delightful is the innocent Héloïse, always calling "Allo, Tome!" and bemoaning those nasty "Prik-shards"), Under Water is another of Highsmith's droll turnabouts in which you don't have to feel guilty about rooting for the bad guy. (Knopf, $21)"