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Ripley Under Water: 12/18/08

Two and a half years ago I read The Mysterious Mr. Ripley, an omnibus containing the first three Tom Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith. Ripley Under Water is the fifth and final book in the series coming just four years before Highsmith's death in 1995.

When Tom Ripley was first introduced in The Talented Mr. Ripley, he was young, unbalanced and quick to anger. He also had a big ego and no scruples when it came to getting ahead in life.

By Ripley Under Water, he's older and happy with the life he has stolen, killed and lied for. He had a nice wife, a housekeeper and a home in France. He's basically retired. All of that is interrupted by a pair of annoying Americans who begin poking into his life and worse — his past! Young Ripley wouldn't have bothered with trying to figure out what the Americans wanted; he would have offed them as a matter of course and then gone about convincing their relatives that he was a long time friend and recently written into their will.

Old Ripley, though, doesn't want to risk things. He doesn't get angry. Instead he travels all over Europe and down to Northern Africa, more scared than anything. I appreciate that people might change or fall into new routines but Ripley's temper and amoral take on life is the main appeal of the series.

Had it just been Ripley's swan-song, I would have enjoyed the book just for closure on a series I have enjoyed (I still need to read book 4: The Boy Who Followed Ripley). Unfortunately, the poor editing got in the way. As the book progresses, Tom's name gets used more and more. I counted one sentence that used his name five times and he was the only person in the scene. "He ", "him " and "himself " would have worked so much better. I don't remember the earlier books having this problem.

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