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Patricia Highsmith (1921-1991) was among the most lauded of the "noir" writers, an author who published over twenty books and won such prestigious prizes as the O. Henry Memorial Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. But in spite of her tremendous fame in Europe, she did not win fame in her native United States until after death, when the 1999 film version of her 1955 novel THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY at last brought her work the recognition it had long deserved.

The 1950 novel STRANGERS ON A TRAIN was Highsmith's first novel, and the premise was so intriguing that no less than legendary director Alfred Hitchcock snapped up the movie rights and turned it into one of his most admired films. The Hitchcock film is a classic of its kind--but even so the novel was both too hot and too dark to be filmed "as is" in the repressive 1950s. Readers who come to the book from the film are in for a surprise.

The very famous point on which the plot turns, however, is the same. Two men, Guy and Bruno, meet by chance on a train and pass the time in conversation. Each reveals to the other that a specific person stands in the way of happiness: for Guy, it is a wayward wife who refuses to give him a divorce; for Bruno it is a stubborn father who refuses him money. When Bruno playfully suggests that he will kill the wife for Guy if Guy will kill the father for Bruno it seems like a bad-taste joke... But Guy will soon discover there is nothing to laugh about at all.

From this opening salvo Highsmith unwinds and rewinds her plot in a manner distinctly different from the Hitchcock film, and even today the book is best known for its fiendish storyline. But it is the characters that make it work, and Bruno emerges as one of the most brilliantly constructed psychopaths of 20th Century fiction. By turns comic, pitiful, stupid, and witty, Bruno's insignificant veneer masks a truly deadly turn of mind. The all-American-honest Guy is no less memorable as his personality slowly but surely deteriorates under Bruno's pressure, and even the most minor of characters pop and sizzle with life under Highsmith's pen.

Although long out of print in the United States, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is back with a vengeance--and the icy, direct, and darkly comic tone of the novel sets it among the best of Highsmith's remarkable work. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Ellen R. Smith, 1920-2005
Virtuoso Pianist and Good Friend
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on February 27, 2005
Charles Bruno is not the kind of man you want to confide in, but Guy Haines doesn't listen to his inner voice telling him just that. Under the influence of liquor and the lull of a moving train, he confides in Bruno, revealing his deep distaste for Miriam, his estranged, pregnant, wife.

Thus begins an unrelenting path of secrets, lies, obsession and murder. The fascination lies in Highsmith's ability to twist the everyday into nightmare. Strangers on a Train, is taut, well-crafted, and difficult to put down. It's a brilliant example of suspense done right, & a blueprint for legion's of mystery novels to come.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2007
Patricia Highsmith was ahead of her time, constructing the perfect crime novel long before it would truly be appreciated. Sadly she was never as famously accepted as she could have been while still living, but thanks to reprints and reissues her novels are being given a new breath of life. Now I say all of this and I have only had the pleasure of reading one of her novels, but that novel was so articulately perfect that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the late author. `Strangers on a Train' is so brilliantly crafted that I'm racking my brain to find a flaw, a drawback of some sort and the only thing I can muster is that here and there there are some grammatical errors, but other than that...I'm coming up empty handed.

Any fan of the Hitchcock film will immediately understand why the famed late director scooped up the film rights to this novel. The premise alone deserves the reader's utmost respect. Two strangers get wrapped up in the perfect crime that escalates into the most horrific journey into the human psyche.

Up and coming architect Guy Haines is traveling by train to meet his estranged wife Miriam to pursue a divorce. Miriam has given Guy nothing but heartache, nothing but trouble, and his nerves are getting the better of him. What if she refuses the divorce? He has a lot riding on this. He has a big job in the works that could finally make for him the name he's been waiting to make. He also has a wonderful supportive woman, Anne, waiting to give her his hand in marriage. He needs this divorce more now than ever.

Charles Bruno so happens to be traveling on the same train. Bruno is traveling to escape his father, a man he abhors with every fiber in his body. His father has denied him all that he feels he is entitled to, and he's come to loathe him in such a way that his death seems all Bruno can think of. If only his father were out of the picture, if only somehow, someway he could be rid of this horror of a man.

And with that the wheels begin to turn, as Guy meets Bruno and Bruno delves deeply into this man, winning over his trust and then devising a plan which involves a double homicide, the two of them trading off murders. It seems so perfect, Bruno, who has no relation to either Guy or Miriam, kills Miriam to free Guy of his ex and in return Guy murders Bruno's father. Guy immediately dismisses the idea as a sick joke and from that point on does all he can to avoid Bruno. Bruno on the other hand doesn't so easily forget Guy, and he decides to go ahead with the plan whether Guy wants to participate or not, but it's after he's snuffed the life out of Miriam that the trouble really begins.

In order for a plan like this to work the two parties would need to remain separate, distant and out of touch, but Bruno slowly becomes obsessed with Guy, falling in love with him in a way and begins to haunt, stalk and torture (mentally) Guy to the point to sheer insanity. The novel continues to weave Bruno's twisted web and we, the reader, are able to sit back and experience madness at its most effective. Patricia was able to paint this picture so clear that we are left with no feeling other than contentment and pure satisfaction. Yes, this novel plays out differently than the famed film, but that's no reason to disregard the novel altogether. It's worth every word penned!
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on June 14, 2000
I cannot believe that A) only one Amazon customer has written areview of this book or that B) it is out of print! WHAT! This is,quite simply, one of the finest novels I have ever read. It was as tough to put down as any other book I've encountered, and at times as profound as Shakespeare. I've yet to discover any other writer besides Highsmith whose books are both absolutely riveting and thoroughly penetrating about the human condition. At times, it was so suspenseful I thought I was going to have a heart attack. The only other experience I've had in life that was as ravaging as this book is sex. Yet despite its at-times horrifying suspense, it is excruciatingly compassionate; the ending made me weep. Highsmith's characters are unbelievably real; I still can't figure out how she makes us care so much about people who are so flawed and sinful. It's as close to the divine as a writer can get. WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT THIS BOOK BACK IN PRINT SO I CAN GIVE A COPY TO EVERYONE I KNOW! END
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on May 6, 2016
Here are the opening sentences of Patricia Highsmith's novel Strangers on a Train:

"The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm. it was having to stop at smaller and more frequent stations, where it would wait impatiently for a moment, then attack the prairie again. But progress was imperceptible. The prairie only undulated, like a vast, pink-tan blanket being casually shaken. The faster the train went, the more buoyant and taunting the undulations. Guy took his eyes from the window and hitched himself back against the seat. Miriam would delay the divorce at best, he thought."

Here, meanwhile, are the opening sentence of this eBook:

"The train rushed along angrily. Guy was thinking about Miriam. He saw her round pink face, her cruel mouth … he started to hate her."

I don't know who took it upon themselves to rewrite Highsmith's book, but this version (ASIN: B01FKPEFP0; published by "MUMOO") isn't her novel.

The actual eBook of Strangers on a Train is published by W. W. Norton & Company. This reads more like an unauthorized, bootleg version that would be better titled STRANGERS ON A TRAIN FOR DUMMIES. I don't know why Amazon is allowing this garbage to be sold on its site. Beware.

* * * * *
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VINE VOICEon July 9, 2004
I don't know why it surprises me to discover that Hollywood has tampered with a novel. Having only seen the Hitchcock film scripted by Raymond Chandler, I was blown away by this early classic from Highsmith. Pretty much the first third of the novel has ended up on screen, but it would seem that Hitch and his associates simply didn't read the rest. Almost everything about this story has been changed. I like the story as Highsmith wrote it. She is a master of suspence. The characters are well drawn and full of ambiguity. Like most everything else I've read by Highsmith, this is both gripping and unnerving. I loved it.
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on May 30, 2016
This an abridged version that takes all of the drama out of the story and gives you the plot twists and turns with no subtlety at all. Chopped by almost 200 pages, the bare bones feel to the story reads like I imagine the pitch for the movie might go and not like the rich, fully-developed novel Patricia Highsmith wrote. Buy the paperback or hardcover and skip the Kindle version all together.
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on May 16, 2016
I downloaded a sample of this book which was a rich and beautifully written excerpt. I purchased the kindle version and noted immediately that huge portions were missing and it read like a made for TV adaptation. This IS NOT the novel as advertised. It should be removed.
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on May 18, 2016
This particular edition is not the complete novel, but a very abridged version. The description on Amazon does not state this.
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on April 22, 2014
I admit that I am an unabashed fan of Highsmith and have read much of what she has written. I started with the Ripliad and saved Strangers until now, much like eating dessert before the entree. I am glad I did as it has resulted in a bountiful and very satisfying banquet. Yes, her world is populated with politely perverse people who fall into murder and mayhem, but they do it with both inevitability and irony. Her descriptions are often poetic, precise and startling. Her strangest sociopaths and psychopaths are totally believable. She was a unique literary talent and reading her brings a bright beam of purple light into the dull darkness of most crime fiction being written today.
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