THE BLACK HOUSE by Patricia Highsmith

THE BLACK HOUSE

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Eleven stories, published some time ago in England, from the darkly gifted, highly uneven Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, Found in the Street), who is rarely at her best in the short-story form. More psychodramas than crime/mystery tales, most of these pieces feature unpleasant, obsessive, neurotic behavior--but without the clinical credibility of Ruth Rendell's best or the nasty zing of Roald Dahl. "I Despise Your Life" presents a 1960's-ish case of father/son estrangement. In "Old Folks at Home," an intellectual, upscale couple adopts--very implausibly--a frail, needy, increasingly selfish pair of senior citizens. "When In Rome" features a bored wife who conspires in a kidnap scheme with a slimy Peeping Tom. And, in "Blow It," a marriage-shy swinger tries to choose between his two girlfriends-but merely manages--unconsciously, on purpose--to lose both of them. (Highsmith's sour view of male/female relations is on relentless, sometimes cartoonish display throughout: in "The Dream of the Emma C," the presence of a young beauty aboard sends the crew into bestial rivalry.) Elsewhere, group guilt is the theme, iffily dramatized: the genteel cover-up of a neighborhood killing; a social outcast supposedly driven to his death by a childishly cruel in-crowd. And there's an occult tinge in four entries: "The Terrors of Basket-Weaving" (murky intimations of reincarnation); "Under a Dark Angel's Eye" (vengeance via mind-power); "The Kite," in which a boy stays connected to his dead sister through flight; and the title story, in which a haunted house is the focus for the macho memories of some prideful boy-men. Disappointing, strangely anticlimactic work--with US backgrounds that never quite ring true, in part because of Anglo-isms (e.g., "torch" for flashlight) and dated slang.
Pub Date: March 16th, 1988
ISBN: 0393326314
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1988




MORE BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

FictionSMALL G by Patricia Highsmith
by Patricia Highsmith
FictionNOTHING THAT MEETS THE EYE by Patricia Highsmith
by Patricia Highsmith
FictionTHE SELECTED STORIES OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH by Patricia Highsmith
by Patricia Highsmith