So I have been meaning to read this book forever. I obviously know about "Strangers on a Train" the movie version directed by Hitchcock. However, I have never read the source material. It's definitely a gem of a good idea that just fails with how Highsmith portrays the characters. It doesn't help that the pace of the book is so freaking slow through a good portion of it that I started to wonder why I was continuing with this read. The ending was just a snooze though. No real thrill there. I just found the character of Guy to be a wimpy victim (after a while you just become a volunteer) with Charles/Bruno to be a bumbling drunk who was repressing his real feelings about Guy.
"Strangers on a Train" has Guy Haines feeling miserable. He is on a train heading back to deal with finally divorcing his estranged wife Miriam. He is angry that Miriam has refused to really go forward with things and is still seeing other men. He is hopeful now that Miriam is finally ready to let him go since she is supposedly pregnant by another man.
A drunk passenger spies Guy and decides to make him his new best friend, Charles Anthony Bruno. Bruno who doesn't have the sense God gave a goose just drinks and latches onto Guy. Guy who is dumb as a box as hair decides to tell Bruno about his personal life instead of untangling himself from him. Eventually we get down to the central premise. These two men have people they hate in their lives and no prior connections, so why not switch murders.
The only authentic piece in this book really was Guy feeling horror and disgust of Bruno when this first comes up. He can't wait to get rid of him and be away from him as one does when a total stranger proposes murdering your estranged wife.
Of course though Bruno is hell-bent on forcing himself into Guy's life in any way that he can and getting Guy to go forward with his plans. The rest of the book Highsmith alternates between these two in a third person POV.
I honestly hated Bruno's sections the worst. He is messed up and highly misogynistic and obviously repressing his homosexual feelings towards Guy. It just left a bad taste to be implying by slight of hand that any man that has feelings for another man has to be a psychopath. When you have Bruno focused on murdering his father you get a Oedipal complex thrown in there too.
Guy is bumbling and very weak. I don't get why he does anything. Highsmith tries to hint at how Guy is just passive, however, there is a difference between being passive and just allowing things to happen to you. And it doesn't fit Guy's personality later when we see him following through on his side of the deal.
The other characters in this book are paper thin. We don't get a good handle on Miriam. Anne, Guy's girlfriend and then wife seems to suspect something, but then it just fades away to focus more on Bruno and Guy.
The writing was okay, the flow was not. This book could have been edited to keep it tighter. I was bored while reading this a good portion of the book.
The setting of the book is Texas, New York, California, the train, a cruise ship, etc. No place feels solid in reading though. Highsmith doesn't pay much attention to locations so no place feels real besides the scene we get when Bruno stalks Miriam.
The ending was nonsensical as anything and went down like a wet fart in a theater.