The Talented Mr. Ripley
First US edition
|Publisher|| • Coward-McCann (United States)
• Cresset Press (United Kingdom)
|Media type||Print (hardback, paperback)|
|Followed by||Ripley Under Ground|
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a 1955 psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith. This novel first introduced the character of Tom Ripley, who returns in the novels Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley's Game (1974), The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980), and Ripley Under Water (1991). The five novels are known collectively as the Ripliad.
Tom Ripley is a young man struggling to make a living in New York City by whatever means necessary, including a series of small-time confidence scams. One day, he is approached by shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf to travel to "Mongibello", in Italy, to persuade Greenleaf's errant son, Dickie, to return to the United States and join the family business. Ripley agrees, exaggerating his friendship with Dickie, a half-remembered acquaintance, in order to gain the elder Greenleaf's trust.
Shortly after his arrival in Italy, Ripley meets Dickie and Dickie's friend Marge Sherwood; although Ripley ingratiates himself with Dickie, Marge does not seem to like him very much. As Ripley and Dickie spend more time together, Marge feels left out and begins insinuating to Dickie that Ripley is gay. Dickie then unexpectedly finds Ripley in his bedroom dressed up in his clothes and imitating his mannerisms. Dickie is upset, and from this moment on Ripley senses that his wealthy friend has begun to tire of him, resenting his constant presence and growing personal dependence. Ripley has indeed become obsessed with Dickie, which is further reinforced by his desire to imitate and maintain the wealthy lifestyle Dickie has afforded him.
As a gesture to Ripley, Dickie agrees to travel with him on a short holiday to Sanremo. Sensing that Dickie is about to cut him loose, Ripley finally decides to murder him and assume his identity. When the two set sail in a small rented boat, Ripley beats him to death with an oar, dumps his anchor-weighted body into the water, and scuttles the boat.
Ripley assumes Dickie's identity, living off the latter's trust fund and carefully providing communications to Marge to assure her that Dickie has dumped her. Freddie Miles, an old friend of Dickie's from Dickie's same social set, encounters Ripley at what he supposes to be Dickie's apartment in Rome; he soon suspects something is wrong. When Miles finally confronts him, Ripley kills him with an ashtray. He later disposes of the body on the outskirts of Rome, attempting to make police believe that robbers have murdered Miles.
Ripley enters a cat-and-mouse game with the Italian police but manages to keep himself safe by restoring his own identity and moving to Venice. In succession Marge, Dickie's father, and an American private detective confront Ripley, who suggests to them that Dickie was depressed and may have committed suicide. Marge stays for a while at Ripley's rented house in Venice. When she discovers Dickie's rings in Ripley's possession, she seems to be on the verge of realising the truth. Panicked, Ripley contemplates murdering Marge, but she is saved when she says that if Dickie gave his rings to Ripley, then he probably meant to kill himself.
The story concludes with Ripley traveling to Greece and resigning himself to eventually getting caught. On arrival in Greece, however, he discovers that the Greenleaf family has accepted that Dickie is dead, and Ripley shall inherit Dickie's fortune according to a will forged by Ripley on Dickie's Hermes typewriter. While the book ends with Ripley happily rich, it also suggests that he may forever be dogged by paranoia. In one of the final paragraphs, he nervously envisions a group of police officers waiting to arrest him, and Highsmith leaves her protagonist wondering, "...was he going to see policemen waiting for him on every pier that he ever approached?"
In 1956, the Mystery Writers of America nominated the novel for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best novel. In 1957, the novel won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière as best international crime novel.
- The novel was first adapted for a January 1956 episode of the anthology television series Studio One.
- Plein Soleil (also known as Purple Noon) (1960), directed by René Clément, stars Alain Delon as Ripley and Maurice Ronet as Greenleaf.
- The 1999 film version, directed by Anthony Minghella, stars Matt Damon as Ripley, Jude Law as Dickie, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge.
- The 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the Ripley novels stars Ian Hart as Ripley, Stephen Hogan as Dickie, and Barbara Barnes as Marge.
- In 2010, the novel was adapted into a stage production at Northampton's Royal Theatre starring Michelle Ryan.
- Milligan, Michael (2011). "Edgar Award Winners and Nominees Database". Mystery Writers of America. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
- "BBC Radio 4 Programmes – Saturday Play, The Complete Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved March 4, 2011.