Suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith finds herself caught in a real-life situation that seems to have sprung from the pages of one of her novels.
It's 1964 and Pat, struggling with her work and seeking to escape the fan who's been writing her disturbingly intimate letters, has fled to a small English cottage. Her preference for solitude is disturbed by a prying journalist, Ginny (who may have an ulterior motive), and her emotional well-being is disturbed by her affair with Sam, a married Englishwoman. This fictional Highsmith is a melding of both biographical details from the author's real life and a fantasy of what kind of person would produce the misanthropic fiction she did. Pat has little compassion for either the pushy young journalist or the old woman who lives in the cottage behind her. On the other hand, in a manner that seems deliberately modeled on Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt (filmed recently as Carol), Pat is absolutely unguarded against her love for the upper-class Sam. These two sides come together in a catastrophe that occurs halfway through the novel. It's a clever conceit, plunging an author into a scenario right out of her own queasy-making fiction, and it's adroitly handled, forcing Pat to live out her ideas of crime and guilt. But there is also something a bit naïve about the device. Finally, it's as if Dawson (The Great Lover, 2010, etc.) is saying that only someone capable of committing the crimes Highsmith wrote about would be able to think them up in the first place.
This homage to Highsmith is a curious mix of devotion and naiveté.