Pub. Date:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train

by Patricia HighsmithPatricia Highsmith
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"For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith." —Time

The world of Patricia Highsmith has always been filled with ordinary people, all of whom are capable of very ordinary crimes. This theme was present from the beginning, when her debut, Strangers on a Train, galvanized the reading public. Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. "Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1951 film, Strangers on a Train launched Highsmith on a prolific career of noir fiction, proving her a master at depicting the unsettling forces that tremble beneath the surface of everyday contemporary life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393321982
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/28/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 281
Sales rank: 84,620
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Patricia Highsmith (1921–1995) was the author of more than twenty novels, including Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt, The Blunderer and The Talented Mr. Ripley, as well as numerous short stories.

Date of Birth:

January 19, 1921

Date of Death:

February 4, 1995

Place of Birth:

Fort Worth, Texas

Place of Death:

Locarno, Switzerland


B.A., Barnard College, 1942

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Strangers on a Train 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are interested in a quick yet intense read, this is the book. It is fabulously narrated and is definately a psychological thriller. It is a timeless story of murder that has not deminished in believability over the years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The idea---is a genius one. Two strangers meet on a train. They both have a problem. One has a nasty wife he is separated from. The other has an annoying and overbearing father. You take care of my problem, I'll take care of yours. It's the perfect murder. There is no motive. Nobody knows the two have ever met before. Who would suspect a thing? However, these two people are much too flawed to make a plan like this work. Charles Bruno, the mastermind, a spoiled, lazy, psychopath---he's much too unstable (especially since he is also an alcoholic) and too arrogant to keep quiet. And Guy Haines, the man bullied into the plan is much too tortured by guilt. The way that Bruno haunts Guy, and the way that Guy haunts himself, makes this book an interesting read. Two very different and engaging characters. So much danger at every turn, so much unpredictability. The torture that one does to their own soul with guilt. All this makes it quite the read. You won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is a thriller in the true sense of the genre. It draws you in quickly and takes hold. I see that some reviews did not like the final third of the novel, but that was the most uncomfortable part. Truly the best part. The discomfort and suffocating guilt is reminicient of "Deliverance". It could have been longer as ending so soon is always hard for an avid reader, yet drawing out the pain and suspense more would have been too much to bear. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone that seeks a well-developed thriller.
Crazy4CrazyForts More than 1 year ago
This book is not nearly as frightening as it is unbelievable. We learn what the main subject of the book is very quickly; a perfect murder. It's supposed to be the perfect crime; you kill my father and I will kill your wife. We are strangers, so we have no link to each other's victims except this meeting. This is what Charles Bruno suggests to Guy Haines on the train where they meet for the first time, and improbably, they quickly get into a conversation about murdering each other's burdens. The way Bruno injects himself into Guy's life after this is sly, but is also unconvincing. We are told that the murder of Miriam (Guy's wife from which he is seeking a divorce) is Bruno's first murder. However, Bruno does it with such ease and eagerness that he seems more like a seasoned killer than an amateur. While some read this book to be a deep look at the criminal mind, to me it is more a light skim of human guilt and it's reactions. The reader is given more description about the superficial things like food and appearances than deep emotional and personal experiences. Later on in the book, when we find out how successful Guy is in his career, it's surprising because Guy's life is never described with much depth. There is also a lot we never learn about Bruno or his past, but this doesn't seem necessarily intentional. While I do see the allusions of incest, specifically in Bruno's descriptions of his own mother, I never see the homosexual references that everyone seems to describe when talking about Highsmith's writing. Bruno's descriptions of Guy seem to be more about envy than attraction. Bruno is fascinated and jealous of Guy's world, and Bruno lives in that world through his platonic but obsessive relationship with Guy. Also, Bruno's death is simpler than it should be and seems like an easy way to get rid of a character to allow the book to end the way Highsmith intended. This book is the original, male, and most importantly, less frightening, version of Single White Female. Not the story I expected it to be and certainly not as much depth as a lot of people seem to give it credit for.
Jenni_Wickham More than 1 year ago
I liked the first two thirds of the book, but found the last third very hard to get through. The repetitious nature of primary character Guy's self torture was relentless and really draining; the same thing over and over. I did though love the first part, particularly the opening scene is superb. The raising of and maintaining the suspense at a relentless pace is also superb. I loved the vivid portrayal of how an essentially good person can be blackmailed and dragged into a nightmare by a madman is presented. These people were innocent and trusting and did not know how to handle the crazy person invading their lives. The author has used mainly 2 POVs - that of the main character Guy and the crazy protagonist Bruno's, but has interspersed 3 other POVs sparingly - that of Bruno's mother's, of Guy's wife Anne's, and the investigator Gerard's. At times POVs switch between Bruno's and his mother's, Bruno's and Anne's in the middle of the same scene. I didn't think Bruno's mother's or Anne's POVs were necessary; they slightly weakened these scenes.
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have the feeling I have read this book before. Now I am listening to it, unabridged, of course.Scary that sociopaths can go unnoticed in society, but that is no surprise. Guy meets Charles Bruno on a train, confides in Bruno about his wife (whom he has discarded and wants a divorce from pronto). Bruno is then unleashed, creating in his own mind an unnaturally intimate relationship with Guy. He executes "the perfect crime" seemingly without a motive when he kills Guy's wife. But, of course, there is a motive--Bruno wants Guy to kill his father. How far will Guy go? I will have to listen on.....
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A rather morbid story of murder and guilt that meanders too much in the trivial.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise is fascinating, but something about the way this was written made it hard for me to get into. Two gentleman meet on a train. One, Guy, latches on to the other and after a bit of conversation learns that he wants to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. Guy suggests that since he too has someone he would like to get rid of (his father) the perfect solution would be for each to murder the others nemesis--since each woud have no obvious motive there would be no way they would be suspected. The other gentleman passes this conversation off as Guy's drunken blather, but when Guy keeps contacting him after their chance meeting and then suddenly his wife dies he realizes that Guy really meant it--and that now ihe is in the worst trouble of his life. Guy's tremendous ability to sway this gentleman is brilliantly portrayed, but some of the detailed musings and descriptions of the characters inner angst was not the most thrilling thing to read. If you like wordy introspection combined with suspense, give it a try--otherwise skim over it and just read the action scenes or watch the movie.
ConnieJo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been reading a lot of Patricia Highsmith this past year, and I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one, her first novel and still one of her most famous.The premise is quite good. When I heard the basic plot summary, I thought it was going to be about two people conspiring together for mutually beneficial murders. That's actually not at all how the story goes, it's really more than one of the strangers (Bruno) is borderline insane, and not only does he do a murder without the other person's (Guy's) consent, he then coerces, blackmails, and basically haunts Guy until he commits the murder he imagines he's earned in exchange.Bruno doesn't have any problem with what he's done, but a lot of the last third of the book is about Guy's conscience and how his deed weighs on him. The pace slows way down through these sections, and I found myself wondering where the story was going while Guy continued to deal with his guilt and the continued insistence by Bruno that the two are friends. I liked Bruno a bit for that, he was a very believable borderline crazy.The investigations catch up to the two and then fizzle out, but I have to admit the ending was quite good, even if it took me forever to get through the large sections immediately before it. I probably would have liked it a lot more without Guy's lengthy diatribes about the dichotomy of good and evil within the self. It was still a good book though, a very enjoyable read, but just not as fantastic as everything else I've read by Highsmith.
darklorelei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this book certainly has it's weaknesses, I feel it's worth reading for it's cultural impact. Obviously there's the classic Hitchcock film, as well as references/homages/ripoffs in countless other shows. Comparisons to Crime and Punishment is probably inevitable, particularly when one compares the detectives.As with Crime and Punishment, though, the book kind of falls at the end for me. It ends rather abruptly for my taste, but I don't really know how else it could have ended.While I do prefer Highsmith's other novels, I feel it's still worth reading. If I could give half stars, I'd probably give it a 3.5, but it's not quite to a four for me.
lenoreva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Almost painful to read - not because it is bad but because the nice guy acts so stupidly you can't bear it.
bridgetmarkwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really good book. Enjoyed the whole Alfred Hitchcock-y feel (have not seen the movie though). It is quite a journey into the psyche of two men. Their thoughts to their words to their actions. Psych and Comm students will enjoy seeing theories and models come to life. Certainly makes me want to read other Highsmith books.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A rare case of the movie is better than the book. I so wanted to like this more than I did. It started off well with Guy and Charley meeting on the train. Even though he didn¿t really want to and didn¿t really like him much, Guy hung out with Charley and told him WAY more info about himself than prudent. These days a person would never be so careless, but in 1950 people were so much more trusting. Highsmith did a very good job at making Charley Bruno a character of dread. He was creepy and moody and became more and more unhinged as the novel continued.But after Guy is goaded into keeping up his end of the ¿deal¿, things start to get uneven. Charley descends further and further into a fantasy world where Guy takes up a larger position than a sane person would assign him. He claims he does not find women attractive and there is something vaguely homosexual in his attachment to Guy and his vision of them together in the future. Eventually as he asserts himself into Guy and Anne¿s life, he starts to view Anne in the same way he viewed Marian and we fear for her. There is one scene where Bruno and Anne area lone while Guy is out of town. He vacillates between extreme politeness and near rudeness all punctuated by his increasingly psychotic internal monologue. Nothing happens then, but it is a very tense scene.Guy is the problem with the second half of the novel. Much like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, his fragile psyche cannot handle the fact that he¿s committed such a heinous crime. The murder sends him into a tailspin of depression, self-loathing and lots and lots of whining. Of course it¿s all internal whining since he can¿t say a syllable to Anne or anyone else. Even Charley Bruno doesn¿t know the extent of his mental incapacity. His work suffers and Anne wonders what the hell is wrong with him. Even during his wedding, he wallows in misery and self-pity. Friends he¿s basically ostracized from his life don¿t notice much; they think his weird behavior is just nerves.The catalyst for a lot of the panic over the crime is an investigator (private) name Girard. He was the weakest character in the bunch. It¿s not very clear who got him involved in the investigation, possibly it was the insurance company for Charley¿s father, and this vaguery is off-putting and limits the character¿s effectiveness as a threat. Eventually I think Highsmith couldn¿t figure out what to do with him and probably got just as sick of Guy as I did. After Bruno goes over the side of Guy¿s boat and is not recovered, Guy sort of goes over the cliff edge of guilt. He reaches out to a very unlikely confessor well after the coast would be clear. If I hadn¿t been so exasperated with Guy, I probably could have appreciated his descent into madness better than I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This review is more to promote the film by Alfred Hitchcock than the novel. Strangers might be my favorite Hitchcock flick, mainly because of the crazy carousel careening and crashing at the end. An interesting trivia note is that Raymond Chandler worked on the script and received screen credit though the final draft omitted his contribution. The novel got under my skin, which may not be a compliment. The film differs from the book in one major way dealing with the actions of Guy our hero, which I will not reveal here. He is more venal in the book than in the film. It's for that reason that I find Highsmith's vision distasteful. I've read Highsmith's other works,including Ripley, and believe her work is amoral because her characters are so immoral. It's a little disturbing that she is becoming more popular. Children and teens need not to be exposed to this nihilism.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Old fashioned by today's standards. Have not seen the movie which I will have to watch for comparison. Heard the book mentioned during a TV program I was watching. I will read other material by this author. The main character needed to "man up".
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krewki More than 1 year ago
very cool and bloody fantastic
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