Look, I hold my hands up – I read just one book this month. I’m not entirely sure why, I don’t think I was particularly busy but my heart clearly wasn’t in it…
Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
The difficult second album, eh? This is the sequel to The Talented Mr Ripley which I read back at the tail end of last year having treat myself to a bound, hardback collection (with a ribbon obvs) of the the first three Ripley novels.
It’s broadly accepted that numbers four and five in the Ripley series were essentially money spinners for Highsmith. They’re not the greatest in any sense but if they’re meant to be a bit “meh” then I fear getting round to reading them if they’re anything like this one, book two.
It sees the return of everyone’s favourite psychopath, Tom Ripley, who’s embroiled in an art fraud. Based on Tom’s idea, a collection of friends have been forging a dead painters work claiming that no, he didn’t commit suicide, but is in fact living a quiet life in Mexico. Tom is now living in France with his mostly-absent wife and is once again trying to spin many plates at the same time and keep on top of all his lies as the truth about the art fraud threatens to come out.
I can’t put my finger on exactly why but I didn’t enjoy this novel. I really wish I had but I’ve got to be honest: it did very little for me. I think it’s partly down to the lack of care I had for the characters involved. They weren’t presented in a way that I had any bond with them or care for their individual story lines. It all just felt a bit… scatty. There’s a young Greenleaf relative who pops up for little discernible reason other than to ‘spook’ Tom into thinking the truth may be given away, there’s a random count who pops up (Tom works as some kind of lackey for an crime syndicate, moving items between places for them, some of which are hidden in the Count’s suitcases) that has little impact on the plot either and you don’t feel close enough to the others involved in the art fraud to give a monkeys about them.
I did feel a little let down here but hopefully the third in the series, Ripley’s Game, is an improvement. I won’t be rushing to read it though.
Long Reads & Articles
Dacre’s Inferno It’s fair to say that the vast majority of people have never heard of Paul Dacre and yet he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest forces in the UK media. As the editor of the Daily Mail for decades he’s shaped the editorial direction of the paper and also the country politically. Much feared, this Guardian article delves into his role and influence.
A Letter To Hillary There was a great NYT long-read a few months back about the Obama administration’s letters department. This Buzzfeed article in a similar vein takes a look at what happens to letters of a Presidential candidate.