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Showing 1-10 of 23 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 39 reviews
on May 25, 2015
Sydney Bartleby is an American living in Suffolk with his English wife Alicia; she lives quite comfortably on her inheritance, while Syd is a struggling mystery writer, hacking away at his great mystery novel while failing to sell crime-show screenplays to television studios. Their marriage on the rocks, after one spat too many Alicia heads to London and leaves Syd alone for a few weeks—and both look forward to the quiet and solitude. Syd's writing picks up and he makes sales, but as the weeks pass and his wife fails to return, suspicion begins to fall on Syd. Why hasn’t she contacted anyone? Why hasn’t she collected her weekly inheritance of £50? And why did his neighbor Mrs. Lilybanks see him walking around one night, carrying a heavy carpet over his shoulder—who buries a carpet in the middle of the night? The Police change their investigation from a missing persons case to a murder; and to complicate things, Sydney begins living out his own murder-mystery plots, play-acting the game of murder under the watchful eye of the investigators…

While Highsmith does an excellent job building tension around this concept---a murder without a corpse---Syd's character I found a bit frustrating. Highsmith has a reputation for trapping her characters in unavoidable circumstances, usually through their own guilt and frantic attempts to escape. But I felt Syd wasn't so much "trapped" as "merely accepting the circumstances and refusing to challenge them"---whenever he learns something that would remove suspicion from himself, he keeps it hidden, continuing to play chicken with the investigators. He knows he's innocent and doesn't worry, at which point why should I? Yet Highsmith still crafts a tense, foreboding atmosphere. Not a 100% success for me, though I will try again with another Highsmith and see if that one is a better fit.
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on June 10, 2013
My exposure to the work of Patricia Highsmith is sadly lacking; although I've read most of the Ripley books (which are outstanding, in case you haven't read them), all of my other exposure to her worlds are through the film adaptations of her work. Having finished A Suspension of Mercy, I get the feeling it might not have been the ideal one to jump back into her books with, but it's still well-written, beautifully crafted suspense with a flair for the ghoulish and the dark. As with most of Highsmith's work, much of the beauty of the book comes from watching the plotting unwind, so I'll just say that A Suspension of Mercy is about a writer who ends up entertaining himself by imagining all the ways he might murder his wife, only to find those "harmless" games resulting in some very real consequences. Several reviewers have commented on some of the more unlikely character actions that drive the book, but by and large, they worked for me; it helps, of course, that Highsmith has such a strong grasp on her morbid and damaged characters, so much so that even the most implausible of actions seems to work within their way of viewing the world. (What's more, so much of it feels like Highsmith's variation on Poe's "The Imp of the Perverse," where a man finds himself reacting absurdly simply out of absurd self-destructive tendencies.) It all builds to an ending that seems to have been a deal-breaker for a lot of people, but worked beautifully for me; it's a gloriously ironic and tense series of events that plays out beautifully, all in the capable hands of Highsmith. I'll concede that Mercy isn't the strongest of Highsmith's work; yes, some of the actions and coincidences strain credulity, and yes, you're going to have to just trust yourself to Highsmith's hands for it all to work. (I can't help but feel that the original title, The Storyteller, would give people a very different perception of the book and shape their reactions to it.) But it's still some beautifully psychological suspense, and it's a joy to watch Highsmith plot it all together like a spider spinning a web.
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on August 16, 2016
As weirdly good as The Talented Mr. Ripley and, like every Patricia Highsmith novel I have read, ahead of its time. This is a "Gone Girl" forerunner, written in 1965, set in England. Plenty of psychological suspense, off-kilter characters, and cat-and-mouse with the police.
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on December 29, 2014
I love Patricia Highsmith. There is no one like her to confuse evil with crime. And I loved this book only found the ending just a bit "off". Doesn't matter. It is still a great experience to read.
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on December 13, 2012
Patricia Highsmith is one of my favorite authors. She really delivers the goods in this book, although the suspense builds very slowly. I had to read almost half the book before she had me in her grip. The story begins with rather mundane descriptions and dialogue in the life of the main character, a fiction-writer. If I hadn't been familiar with the author, I might have given up on the book too soon. Suddenly I'm worrying about Sydney, the writer, not sure if he's out of his mind, has murdered his wife, or has simply imagined it. And why does he keep making such poor choices when it comes to words and actions? Well, that's one of the Patricia Highsmith's specialties, the neurotic character who wouldn't be in so much trouble if he (or she) would just act like a normal person. It puts the reader on edge, wanting to scream out to the characters in her books.

Highsmith is a master of suspense, and it shows in this story. I only hope readers new to her writing will not give up on this novel as they read it. They would be missing a great read.
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on July 7, 2013
This work reminded me of Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell. I loved the quaint matter of factness in the evilness and in the politeness of the characters. It kept me guessing and in a love hate with all the characters. I would read again and will explore more by the author.
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on September 6, 2015
Loved it! I often found my breath suspended. One of those great suspense novels where you find yourself exasperated with and yelling at the protagonist.
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on December 2, 2016
As a Senior Citizen, I expected to enjoy a good, old fashioned English countryside mystery. Alas, this was like being trapped in a rural B&B with your least favorite cousins. I didn't like a single character and was sort of hoping somebody would get killed just to liven things up. Eventually there is a death, but it doesn't help. I deleted this from my Kindle without finishing it. Now I'm afraid to try the complete Ripley sequence which is on another shelf.
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on July 30, 2016
Highsmith's novels are nothing but totally engaging, I have read all of them more than once.
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on December 27, 2009
"A Suspension of Mercy" is a good book, although:

1. Sidney's reasons for being fed up by Alicia are a bit rushed. I would've liked to see more interaction between them to be able to say it was a sick relationship.

2. "The Whip" is more of a cartoonish character whose "adventures" have nothing to do with the plot, so, to be honest, everytime I had to read about each "episode", I was annoyed.

3. Sidney's character isn't as well developed as other characters in other Highsmith's books. There are interesting details about his personality, but I would've liked to know more about him.

4. The ending is a huge a let down. I understand that this novel was written in the 1960's, but I can't believe the police could be so naive back then. If I told you why, I'd be giving away the ending.

However, this is a one of a kind plot and that's why, in spite of all this, I gave it 3 stars. The novel is a real page turner and it keeps you interested and wondering how everything will be solved until the very end. The way Patricia Highsmith conceived and developed the plot, where only the reader and Sidney know the truth of it all, is remarkable, and it definitely would make a great film.

The book has potential to be great, but because of its ending, I cannot give it more than three stars.
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