by Patricia Highsmith
My recent re-reading of Patricia Highsmith's first successful novel makes me see it to be far stranger than Hitchcock was able to convey in his film. This is a symptom of sensibilities circa 1951, perhaps, or a certain diffidence on Hitchcock's part. No matter why, the film makes many changes to the plot and dramatis personae, some consequential, some in-.
Guy Haines is a young, promising architect rather than a dilettantish amateur tennis player. Charles Anthony Bruno is changed to Bruno Anthony. The mise en scène is shifted from the American southwest to the northeast megalopolis (extending from DC to NYC to CT). Bruno is an amoral dipsomaniac in both the film and the book. The principal difference is that Guy is feckless and insubstantial and, in the end, the creepiest person in the book.
The two men meet and Bruno insinuates himself into Guy's life in a way that is almost unstoppable. We see most of the events in both from Guy's viewpoint, so we can get to thoroughly dislike him. By the end of the book it's clear that neither deserves to get away with murder.
There is a private detective character in the book, an employee of the late Mr. Bruno, who makes it his mission to solve the murder of Bruno's father. He is relentless, kind of an Inspector Javert without the ruth, but neither of these two is a Jean Valjean. It's a pleasure to see the noose tightening around the two.
In the film Citizen X, Max von Sydow plays a psychiatrist, Bukhanovsky, who tells the police commissioner and his chief detective/pathologist, after assessing their complementary characters, "Together you make a wonderful person." Guy Haines and Bruno come up much short of even this minimal achievement.
One might give this book a logline: "This weirdo killed my wife then wanted quid pro quo; he kept annoying me, so, I murdered his father to shut him up."