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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling
This book is one of the few books I've ever read, especially in mystery, that gave me a serious case of the creeps. It's not just suspenseful, it's scary. The book has aged, but not dated; if anything I found Highsmith's characters even more disturbing in light of how social mores and psychological knowledge has advanced. But what's ultimately scary about it is that...
Published on October 8, 2000 by Dan Seitz

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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden Darkness of the Ordinary Man
Patricia Highsmith has her own chilling interpretation of the suspense thriller genre. You wonder not so much about what will happen or how it will happen or who will do it. Rather, the question is: how much worse can things get for the relatively innocent main character, Robert Forrester, who, as the novel goes on, is falsely suspected of a growing number of...
Published on April 18, 1997


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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden Darkness of the Ordinary Man, April 18, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
Patricia Highsmith has her own chilling interpretation of the suspense thriller genre. You wonder not so much about what will happen or how it will happen or who will do it. Rather, the question is: how much worse can things get for the relatively innocent main character, Robert Forrester, who, as the novel goes on, is falsely suspected of a growing number of deaths.

Forrester invites suspicion by prowling around the house of a young woman. Depressed by the failure of his marraige, he has moved to a small Pennsylvannia town and is leading a solitary and bleak life. Looking through the windows of Jenny's house, he is comforted by watching the attractive young woman attend to domestic details: cooking, hanging curtains, talking to her boyfriend over dinner.

Highsmith presents Forrester's prowling as understandable; slightly wrong, and risky, yet certainly not harmful. Mostly one feels sympathy for Forrester, a character drawn in anguished shades of gray. He is a decent man, with no drive or hope, seeking a little illicit happiness.

As the novel progresses, his relationship to Jenny takes a surprising turn of events. Highsmith's mastery lies in the pedestrian inevitability with which she introduces abnormal and even shocking twists of the plot. Because we are lulled into Highsmith's own distinctive world of the darkness of ordinary lives, our anxiety for Forrester is gradually heightened without our even being aware of it. By the time the plot gets around to the events which categorize the novel as a mystery, we are deeply engaged in the psychologies of Forrester and Jenny, as well as several other characters.

The suspense thus springs from their own interior struggles, rather than the machinations of a conventional murder plot. Predictably, therefore, there are no easy solutions in the end, no complex train of events to be tied up in one simple explanation.

The adding up of the actions of people who are no more conscious of why they do what they do than any regular person, has, in this novel, an utterly gripping and painfully believable tragic outcome.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, October 8, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
This book is one of the few books I've ever read, especially in mystery, that gave me a serious case of the creeps. It's not just suspenseful, it's scary. The book has aged, but not dated; if anything I found Highsmith's characters even more disturbing in light of how social mores and psychological knowledge has advanced. But what's ultimately scary about it is that what happens to our hero, Robert Forester, is something that could very easy happen to anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Read it, it's brilliant.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't really live up to its promise, December 17, 2002
By 
leonie jordan (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
This is the first Patricia Highsmith novel I've read, and all things considered I probably should have started with one of her more popular titles. I did enjoy the book, but thought the action fizzled out a bit about halfway through. It started really well. I liked Robert, I liked the cosy domestic idyll Jenny represented for him, but I got disappointed when they actually got to know each other, and found that the reality of their relationship paled beside his fantasy.
I found Nikkie somewhat unbelievable - could someone so theatrically cruel really exist and would someone like Robert ever be blind enough to marry her? Hopefully not. I also thought Greg's transformation from clean-cut, stable, all-American nice guy to a gun-wielding, porn-viewing maniac a little too radical. If Highsmith was trying to invert our assumptions about Robert and Greg and make a point about appearance and reality she should probably have done so with a little more subtlety.
I expected the plot to take a completely different arc to what it did - did anyone else latch on to the comment Jenny made towards the beginning of the book about how accusing a man falsely of rape was the worst crime a woman could commit? I thought that this was an indicator of how the story would proceed, and felt a little cheated when it turned out to have no bearing on the plot at all.
Having said all that, Highsmith did a wonderful job of creating an atmosphere of tension and nervous expectation, as my completely eroded cuticles will testify. It's a book that has an almost physiological effect on you - you actually experience what the characters feel, rather than using your imagination to try and simulate the experience. The ending is particularly good in this regard as it gives no closure, but instead allows the sense of despair and horror to continue after the book has been closed. This makes it a rather uncomfortable read I suppose, as most people can do without palpitations, a dry throat, and a sense of mounting panic. It takes an incredibly talented writer to make you want to go through such a disquieting experience again, but I certainly do. I will definitely read another Patricia Highsmith novel, and will hopefully find it even better than this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good but not superb, November 7, 2001
By 
Vincent Gardien (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
The first couple of novels by Patricia Highsmith that I read were the Ripley-series and after finishing those I was very impressed with her work. Then I decided I also have to read the rest of what she has written and finally let that marvellous Tom Ripley-character go... so the Cry Of The Owl was my next book and I must say that it is not AS brilliant as what I've read before but it was still pretty good. I was never really surprised or shocked by what the characters in this book did and there was not a great plot but thinking about the story line and the characters I must say it is an interesting book. The main character, Robert Forester, is not a twisted minded serial killer or anything but is in fact a very nice man. It is others in the story that are responsible for the killing/death, but everybody suspects Robert of killing. What this book shows is how people think that are prejudiced and how easy it is for them after only reading stories in the paper and listening to gossip to have an opinion about someone they do not even know. Like I said there is not a brilliant plot in the story but it is quite interesting. I'd say: if you like Patricia Highsmith: don't miss this one! And as far as my Patricia Highsmith reading goes: Bring on the next book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moderately suspenseful; forgettable, March 28, 2011
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
The story roughly divides into three parts: the first, which is the best, about the relationship between Robert and Jenny; the second, about the suspicion that Robert killed Greg, Jenny's fiance; and the third, about Robert's pursuit by Greg and Nickie, Robert's ex-wife. The book starts off a bit implausibly, when Jenny invites Robert, who she knows is her Peeping Tom, inside her home. But at least the first part has some intrigue because Robert is ambiguous in his motives and trustworthiness. By contrast, any suspense the story's second part has relies on the reader's willingness to believe that the police in the story's locale are dolts compared to the Keystone Cops. The third part is totally over the top in implausibility, with Greg, now a murderer out on bail, joining forces with Nickie to do in Robert. It's typical Highsmith, with lots of drinking and threats of violence, sometimes realized. The book is somewhat more suspenseful, surprisingly, than Strangers on a Train, and it has a startling description of a suicide from the victim's point of view, but it is still unimpressive as a whole. For the diehard Highsmith fans only, I'd say. Highsmith should have stuck to short stories.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Must Have Missed Something!, October 30, 2000
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This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
I guess I just don't get it. "The Cry of the Owl" shows promise early in the story as Robert, a nice but confused young man becomes involved (implausibly!) with Jenny,a nice young woman any guy would like to meet and date. But how many girls invite peeping Toms in for coffee instead of calling the cops? The story proceeds apace with actions, characters, dialog and plot twists that simply seem increasingly unreal. I know this is fiction but Ms. Highsmith writes as though she has lived her life in an ivory tower. People like this-except for good old Jenny- just don't exist. Read the book and email me that you believe Nickie! To give the author her due, there is a definite sense of gloom right from the start and the characters, especially Greg and the cop, Lippenholz, add to the depressed aura of foreboding. The book reads quickly.The depressed small Pennsylvania town setting is just right. But then nothing happens- or maybe something did and I just missed it. And if you understand the "ending", you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din. It's back to Ann Rule for me!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a chilling "American noir" novel, November 13, 2000
By 
lazza (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
People often, and mistakenly (in my opinion), view most works from Patricia Highsmith as 'crime novels'. The Cry of the Owl is probably no exception since it contains the requisite murders, false accusations, etc. Judged as a crime novel The Cry of the Owl is only so-so. That is, it's not a page-tuner.
However Ms. Highsmith's true genius was her ability to closely examine the psychological aspects of a criminal, victims, and related parties. In The Cry of the Owl we see how the general public can jump to conclusions when a stranger is accused of murder. While all is revealed at the end, Ms. Highsmith also lets the reader make his/her own judgement ... and so we might either fall into the "guilty until proven innocent" trap or maintain a balanced, impartial view. And she does this all in an economical, easy-to-read style that is readily accessible to most everyone.
No, The Cry of the Owl does not rank on par with her great works such as Strangers on a Train. But the growing numbers of Patricia Highsmith should put this novel on their 'must read' list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The romance of negative emotions, February 7, 2010
By 
Mary E. Sibley (Medina, Ohio, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
Jack is married to Betty, and Robert Forrester is their friend. Robert is a voyeur. He believes he doesn't look like a psychopath. He dreams of Brother Death. Subsequently he gets to know his subject. This is all I'll say about the plot since Patricia Highsmith is the master of twisted plots. Setting, atmosphere, serpentine leads are also the tools used by Highsmith to create the suspense and unease inherent in her fiction. Robert, among other things, has impostor syndrome.

Fictions of Patricia Highsmith are fascinating for their grasp of schizoid trends. In the economy of expression the novels seem French in the manner of Georges Simenon. The Highsmith oeuvre is a rich trove for movie scripts. There is more here than just a RIPLEY movie. Missed connections, misunderstandings, creators of psychological terrors and manipulations are present everywhere in the work, creating anxiety, dread, apprehension.

The nervous sensibility resembles that of and captured memorably by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe and Highsmith were thorough-going intellectuals. It is possible in their personal existences in the world they were, characteristically, misunderstood. They were people caught up in their own obsessions and found literary forms to embody them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but still great, February 10, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) (Paperback)
This is the kind of story you can read about everyday in the papers, or hear about on 20/20 type of shows, only here it is novelized and done so well. I don't find it surprising, once we've gotten to know all the characters, that Jenny would invite Robert into her house. And I liked Robert, because he's a good guy, with good intentions and without the need to explain himself to everybody, but it's his goodness that allows for all the grief in the book. My biggest problem with the book was that the characters guess at what the others are doing, and lo and behold that's what they are up to. Otherwise, it's a great book. Throw together a bunch of characters with scheming minds, mixed in with characters who just want to lead their lives, and that's the kind of story this is. Only the second book I've read from her, but I can guarantee I'll be making my way through all of them, including the Ripley series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh. Didn't work for me., December 23, 2014
By 
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After 6 great reads in quick succession I guess I was overdue for a flat tyre, and this book was it. Cardboard characters who behave unbelievably stupidly in the unlikeliest of situations and are boring while doing it. The writing too was pedestrian and at no point was I "involved" in the story or with any of the characters, apart from an occasional urge to smack one of them in the head for wasting my time and an increasingly strong urge to do the same to myself for picking up this book in the first place and then feeling obliged to finish it.

It's billed as suspense and a thriller. About as suspenseful as a commuter train ride and about as thrilling too.

Avoid it.
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The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia)
The Cry of the Owl (Highsmith, Patricia) by Patricia Highsmith (Paperback - January 18, 1994)
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