“Deep Water” by Patricia Highsmith was the most recent book assigned for the Wall Street Journal book club. This is the third book that the club has taken up and while I very much enjoyed the first book (“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel), the second book (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain) did not pull me in the same way. So I was not sure how to feel about the newest assignment and ended up getting the book from the library and putting it in my ‘stack to read’. It wasn’t until I discovered that I could not renew this particular book from the library that I picked it up to read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
“People who do not behave in an orthodox manner, Vic thought, are by definition frightening.” (Deep Water, pg 18). I loved this quote because it gently lets the reader know that “Deep Water” is a very different kind of thriller. The further you get in the novel, the more true you find this to be. The main character Vic is a very calm, quiet, simple man; one who could easily be described as an introvert. Melinda, his wife, is his complete opposite. She is loud and active and always making herself the center of attention. They have an odd relationship to anyone outside their home and even their young daughter Trixie does not find anything unusual about her mommy bringing home a new gentleman every few months.
An unsolved murder is the catalyst that changes everything in Vic and Melinda’s world. As a joke, or perhaps because he really did want others to believe it, Vic softly spreads the rumor that he was the one who killed the victim in the unsolved murder. Nothing comes down on Vic for this rumor but Melinda’s gentlemen callers stay away for a time. During this time, Vic finds himself even cheerier than usual and this spell is only broken when the murder is solved. Now Vic’s secret reputation is gone and Melinda is once again acting up. What happens next was part of what made the book so easy to devour. I don’t want to give too much away because the book was so exciting but I will say that the main character was eerily calm throughout the book no matter what the circumstances were that you couldn’t help but see him in a positive light. He was a really fun character to follow and it was equally entertaining to read about his thoughts regarding what he believed others were probably thinking of him. “He’d just tell her that he thought Vic Van Allen was cracked, judging from the snails in the garage and from his insane enthusiasm for glaciers.” (Deep Water, pg 139).
I couldn’t get enough of Patricia Highsmith’s writing and I found so much of what she wrote to be true. This one sentence I just loved, “There was something demonical and insuperable about typographical errors, as if they were part of the natural evil that permeated man’s existence, as if they had a life of their own and were determined to manifest themselves no matter what, as surely as weeds in the best-tended gardens.” (Deep Water, pg 53). This is how grammatical nerds feel ALL THE TIME! Well said Patricia Highsmith!
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It was so well written and so exciting that after I finished the book I immediately put it on my amazon wish list and ordered myself more books by Patricia Highsmith. I was happy to find out that she has written about twenty novels. I was less happy to discover that she has since passed away and will not be sharing any more novels with the world. Alas, I will have to cherish the books that she has written but from what I can tell, her books are the kind that you can lose yourself in more than once.