Review: Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith

by Stephen Tall on July 8, 2015

ripley under ground#Ripley Under Ground, Patricia Highsmith

I loved the chutzpah of Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) so was curious to see how it translated into this follow-up, the second in Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Ripliad’ quintet. Ripley has gotten himself involved in an art scam and faces ruin when an American collector threatens to expose it.

There are moments of excitement, yet there’s something missing in this sequel. Maybe it’s that Ripley has made it — he’s no longer a thrusting young man sharp-elbowedly trying to make his way in the world, but a wealthy husband keen to protect his sedately comfortable life, dabbling at painting, gardening and learning French, never happier than when changing into his pyjamas. Bluntly, he’s just not that much fun second time around.

There are elements of implausibility, too: impersonating Derwatt, the dead painter whose art the Buckmaster Gallery is faking, Ripley holds a press conference and allows photographers to snap away: an absurd and unnecessary risk quite at odds with the other precautions he takes — which again include murder, of course.

In essence: interesting, but not enough to inspire me to plough through the rest of the series: if I read another Ripley novel, I’ll probably go back to the beginning.

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