First edition (UK)
|Cover artist||Graham Miller|
|Publisher||Heinemann (UK) &
Random House (USA)
|11 March 1974 (UK)
May 1974 (US)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ3.H53985 Rk5 PS3558.I366|
|Preceded by||Ripley Under Ground|
|Followed by||The Boy Who Followed Ripley|
In the third Ripley novel, Tom Ripley is a wealthy man in his early thirties. He lives in Villeperce, France, with his wealthy French wife, Heloise. Ripley spends his days living comfortably in his house, Belle Ombre, until an associate, an American criminal named Reeves Minot, asks him if he can commit a murder for him. Ripley — who "detest[s] murder, unless absolutely necessary" — turns down the offer of $96,000 for the two hits, and Minot goes back to Hamburg, Germany.
The previous month, Ripley had gone to a party in Fontainebleau, where the host, Jonathan Trevanny, a poor British picture framer suffering from myeloid leukemia, insulted him. As revenge, Ripley suggests to Minot that he might try to convince Trevanny to commit the two murders. To ensure that the plan will work, Ripley starts a rumor that Trevanny has only months to live, and suggests that Minot fabricate evidence that Trevanny's leukemia has worsened, though Minot does not. Trevanny, who fears his death will leave his wife and son penniless, accepts Minot's offer of a visit to a medical specialist in Hamburg. While in Hamburg, he is persuaded to commit the murder for money.
After carrying out the contract — a shooting in a crowded U-bahn station — Trevanny insists that he is through as a hired gun. Minot invites Trevanny to Munich, where he visits another doctor. Minot persuades Trevanny to murder a Mafia boss, this time on a train using a garrotte, but he also gives him the far less desirable option of using a gun. At first Trevanny is horrified by the idea, but he eventually gives in and finds himself on the train. He resolves to shoot the mafioso and commit suicide before he can be caught, and he asks Minot to ensure that whatever happens to him the money will go to his wife. Before Trevanny can go through with it, however, Ripley — who had started to feel responsible for getting Trevanny into the situation — shows up and executes the Mafia boss himself. He asks Trevanny not to let Minot know that he has "assisted" with the assassination.
Trevanny's wife Simone discovers a Swiss bank book with a large sum in Trevanny's name and starts to suspect that her husband is hiding something from her. She links the rumor about her husband's demise to Ripley and asks Trevanny to tell her how, exactly, he has been making so much money. Trevanny is unable to explain it to her and turns to Ripley to help him concoct a credible story. Ripley acknowledges his role in Trevanny's dilemma and promises to shepherd him through the ordeal.
Ripley learns from Minot that the Mafia in Hamburg appear to be suspicious of Minot's involvement with the murders. Minot goes on the run after the Mafia bombs his house. Ripley begins to fear Mafia revenge when he receives a couple of suspicious phone calls. After sending Heloise and their housekeeper, Mme. Annette, away, Ripley asks Trevanny to help him deal with any Mafia reprisals at Belle Ombre.
When two Mafia hitmen turn up at Belle Ombre, Ripley kills one and forces the other to phone his boss in Milan and say that Ripley is not the man they are after before Ripley kills him. Simone then shows up at the house demanding answers — and discovers the corpses and is sent away in a taxi. Ripley and Trevanny drive to a remote village to burn the corpses in their own car. A few days later, Ripley visits Trevanny's house, where a quartet of Mafia gunmen appear. One of them opens fire on Ripley, but Trevanny steps in front of him and is mortally wounded; he dies in Ripley's car on the way to hospital. Ripley is unsure whether Trevanny's action was by accident or design.
A few months later, Ripley encounters Simone in Fontainebleau, and she spits at him. He realizes that Simone has accepted her husband's blood money, and in doing so has remained silent about her suspicions of Ripley's instigation of the entire affair.
In the New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote that the novel "gets off to a very strong beginning" and described how he appreciated the plot once Ripley set it in motion and stood back. He concluded:
But then, at the height of the climactic scene ... Miss Highsmith blows the whole thing. She decides to bring Tom Ripley back to center stage, and since there is no reason whatsoever for him to be there, she must force him on us implausibly. From that point on the pieces of her novel fall further and further apart, and by the end the whole business has gotten so silly that it is difficult to recall what got us interested in the first place.
- Ripley's Game was adapted in 1977 by Wim Wenders as Der Amerikanische Freund, starring Dennis Hopper as Ripley. It was also adapted under its original title in 2002 by director Liliana Cavani, with John Malkovich as Ripley.
- The 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation stars Ian Hart as Ripley, Helen Longworth as Heloise, Tom Brooke as Trevanny, Paul Rider as Minot and Janice Acquah as Simone.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (July 25, 1974). "Maybe the Films Will Succeed". New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- BBC Radio 4 page for the series
- Two Faces of Ripley, filmbrain.com comparison of The American Friend and Ripley's Game
- Ripley's Game at Fact Behind Fiction