A Suspension of Mercy

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A Suspension of Mercy
Cover art for the first UK edition of "A Suspension of Mercy"
First UK edition
Author Patricia Highsmith
Language English
Genre Thriller
Set in Suffolk, England
Published Heinemann (1965)
Pages 251

A Suspension of Mercy (1965) is a psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith. It was published in the US under the title The Story-Teller later the same year by Doubleday.[1] It was the eleventh of her 22 novels.


The protagonist's surname refers to Herman Melville's short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and its enigmatic title character.


Sidney Bartleby is an American television scriptwriter living near Framlingham, Suffolk, England, who specialises in murder mysteries. To help find inspiration for story ideas, he fantasizes about killing his wife, Alicia, drawing up plans in great detail. With little warning she decides their relationship merits a trial separation. She leaves for a long holiday and he begins to let his imagination take his story ideas further. He begins to consider whether he might someday enact one of his plots in real life. When he finds Alicia with another man, he has the motive his scheme was lacking and the lines between fact and fiction blur.


In the New York Times, Anthony Boucher wrote: "It's a curious and absorbing novel, almost unique in its fantastic and ironic tone".[2]

Highsmith's biographer Andrew Wilson calls this work "the author's most postmodern novel" and describes it as "a literary hall of mirrors in which reality and fiction are constantly reflected and, ultimately, confused".[3]


  1. ^ "Patricia Highsmith Bibliography". Classic Crime Fiction. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Veale, Scott (September 2, 2001). "New & Noteworthy Paperbacks". New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  3. ^ Andrew Wilson, Beautiful Shadow,[page needed]