It is 1964 and Patricia Highsmith is living in Earl Soham, a small village in Sussex. Here at Bridge Cottage she seeks only peace and quiet.
Pat has moved from France where she began to receive anonymous letters. Now, only her friend Ronnie visits Pat and takes her out on small excursions, other than him Pat just wants only to be left alone. She is fascinated by snails and keeps them in her bedroom, pockets and handbag. Pat seems to be on edge, nervous and fearful. She has a very nosy neighbour, Mrs Ingham and so when a young journalist Virginia Smythson-Balby comes into Pat’s life [to interview her], she becomes even more edgy.
Pat is in a relationship with a married woman called Sam, who lives in London. She wants Sam to leave her husband Gerald who is a bully but also has a daughter, Araminta. Sam will never leave Gerald or her daughter; Minty. Pat’s only way of contacting Sam is from the telephone box opposite her cottage and she is becoming jealous, exasperated and drinking a lot of whisky. Pat hates the thought of Sam in this destructive marriage. Will Pat’s anger and jealousy towards Gerald turn her fantasies of violence into reality?
Pat continually remembers her childhood, particularly her mother and stepfather Stanley. It appears that she is slipping into a life where fantasy and reality intermingle; dangerously so.
Patricia Highsmith always insisted that she wasn’t a crime fiction writer, and that she wrote “suspense novels”. The Crime Writer is exactly that, a suspense novel. Jill Dawson reproduces the style of Patricia Highsmith’s writing with elegance. If you are a Highsmith fan you will recognise the references to her life and work, but you don’t need to have read Highsmith to enjoy this novel.
The book is well written but it does slump at times, but do read on. The sense of place and characterization is excellent. The plot is not conventional crime fiction, but is interesting and thought provoking.
I plan to find out more about Patricia Highsmith and also read more from Jill Dawson following experiencing The Crime Writer.