It’s impressive how Patricia Highsmith’s classic psychological thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley, has remained in the public consciousness since its publication nearly seven decades ago, in 1955. (It received a starred review from Kirkus at the time.) Just last year, multiple critics compared the manipulative, murderous protagonist of Saltburn to Tom Ripley, the brilliant and deadly con artist who, over the course of five novels, always managed to stay just one step ahead of the law. The first installment in the five-book Ripliad inspired several adaptations over the years, including an excellent 1999 film, directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon. A new, somewhat less excellent series adaptation, Ripley, premieres on Netflix on April 4.

The show is impressively faithful to the events of the novel, in which shipbuilding magnate Herbert Greenleaf asks young Ripley to travel from New York to Italy. His mission? To convince Greenleaf’s son, Dickie, to give up his dreams of being a painter and return home. Greenleaf is under the impression that Ripley and Dickie are close friends; in reality, Ripley, who’s struggling financially and running an unsuccessful mail-fraud scam, has only has a passing acquaintance with the wealthy man’s son. However, he’s more than willing to accept an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe. When he meets Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge Sherwood, in seaside Mongibello, south of Naples, he finds himself deeply attracted to their carefree, wealthy lifestyle; it’s also strongly implied that Ripley falls in love with Dickie, too, despite his protestations that he’s “not queer.” When it appears that Dickie’s about to cut him out of his life, Ripley takes drastic, violent action, which results in him assuming a lucrative new identity—and to keep his secret, he commits another terrible crime, which attracts the attention of the Italian police.

The novel is told from a third-person perspective but very much stays inside Ripley’s head, and readers experience how he mulls over every possibility while plotting new crimes. Still, he’s not infallible, which ratchets up the tension and makes the character strangely relatable (“It was just a slip, but nothing serious, Tom thought. He just mustn’t let such a thing happen again”). As a result, many readers find themselves wanting Ripley to succeed in his deadly plans; after all, his victims aren’t particularly likable. (Fans of the Showtime series Dexter will be familiar with this feeling.)

Ripley’s Oscar-winning creator, writer, and director, Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), changes very little of the original story, to his great credit. His choice to shoot the series in black and white (with There Will Be Blood cinematographer Robert Elswit) is inspired, as it not only looks gorgeous, but also conjures a noir-mystery mood, which fits the material nicely. However, the series proceeds at a profoundly leisurely pace that often kills the tension; one can easily imagine a tighter show that’s at least half as long.

Andrew Scott, who plays Ripley, is perhaps best known for his roles in last year’s art house film All of Us Strangers and the BBC series Fleabag, but it’s his BAFTA Award–winning performance in another BBC series, Sherlock, as criminal mastermind Moriarty, that’s most relevant here. Indeed, his depiction of Ripley’s shrewd machinations feels at times very much like a villain’s origin story. As such, the 47-year-old Scott seems a bit too old for the part; in the novel, Ripley is just 25, which makes his titular talents seem all the more impressive. That’s not to say that Scott doesn’t give his all; although the show lacks narration, the actor convincingly gets across Ripley’s amoral brilliance in intriguingly subtle ways. But he never feels like a deadly wunderkind, which is part of the original’s appeal.

The casting of Emma’s Johnny Flynn as Dickie also misses something about the character, who’s a young, rich dolt on the page; the actor, who’s 41, simply comes across as too thoughtful onscreen, with too much life behind him. Dakota Fanning is quite good as Marge, highlighting the character’s vague suspicions about Ripley from the start, and The Gentlemen’s Eliot Sumner gives Dickie’s friend, Freddie Miles, a welcome slyness that he lacks in the source material. Unfortunately, the show’s glacial pace all but negates these positives, making for an ultimately forgettable adaptation of a truly memorable novel.

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.