Saturday, 18 July 2009

Ripley Under Ground

I enjoyed listening to the second BBC Radio CD about Tom Ripley, this time based on Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground. Again, I read the book a long time ago, and although I don’t think it is as dazzling as The Talented Mr Ripley, it is nevertheless good.

In this story, eight yeas after the events of the first, Tom is married to a wealthy French woman, and living the good life. This is funded by his involvement in an art forgery scam. Tom and a few pals have arranged with a nervy British artist, Bernard, to fake pictures by Derwatt, whose death some years ago is (for some reason) unknown to anyone but the conspirators. But then an art collector begins to suspect tht he has been sold a fake, and although Tom impersonates Derwatt at an art show, Bernard loses his nerve and threatens to give the game away.

Tom soon finds himself driven to commit murder again. Not for the first time, the police suspect he has something to hide, but the combination of his silver tongue, and some outrageous luck and coincidences are the means by which Highsmith keeps him at arm’s length from justice.

This story was adapted for radio by Alan McDonald. Alan was one of the first crime writers I got to know – he wrote a couple of books about a Scouse female private eye called Rosie before I published my first Harry Devlin. But he had some bad luck with his publisher (the covers made the stories look like Catherine Cooksons) and he hasn’t written crime novels for quite a while – though, being based in the Lake District, he did give me some valuable help when I was working on The Coffin Trail. He has a long track record with the broadcast media and Ripley Under Ground is a typically professional piece of work.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

The interesting thing for me about these books is the way we're put in the position of rooting for Ripley...who isn't a good guy at all.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Martin Edwards said...

Exactly! It's quite a feat. More about this fascinating series soon.

Dorte H said...

I have only read one Ripley - not quite sure which one.
They have much in common with Andrew Taylor´s Dougal-series, haven´t they? Again, I have only read the first, Caroline Minuscule (1982), but the protagonist and the art crime sound much like what you write about Ripley Under Ground.
Susan Moody also uses what is not a criminal protagonist but a criminal sidekick in her debut, Penny Black, written in 1984.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Dorte. I'm glad you mentioned the Dougal books. I've read some, and found them quirky and very interesting. I also liked Penny Black, though it's a long time since I read it. A pity Susan abandoned the character, as Penny was certainly a bit different.