Back

ⓘ The Blunderer is a psychological thriller by Patricia Highsmith, first published in 1954 by Coward-McCann. It was third of her 22 novels, the second published u ..




The Blunderer
                                     

ⓘ The Blunderer

The Blunderer is a psychological thriller by Patricia Highsmith, first published in 1954 by Coward-McCann. It was third of her 22 novels, the second published under her own name.

                                     

1. Synopsis

Mild-mannered lawyer Walter Stackhouse has come to hate his neurotic wife Clara. He has suffered for years as she alienated all his friends and embarrassed him with her pettiness, overly-dramatic gestures and intolerance of other peoples needs. With Walter, she is increasingly distant and, without foundation, she begins to accuse him of having an affair with the sweet and sensuous music teacher, Ellie Briess. He does eventually become infatuated with the girl and starts a relationship with her. Jealous Clara then attempts suicide by overdose, forcing Walter back into her arms. However, immediately upon recovering from near-death, Clara falls into her usual pattern; Walter finally stands his ground and demands a divorce.

Clara is then found dead, having fallen off a cliff during a rest interval while taking a bus to see her dying mother. It is likely suicide. In time, as the official investigation continues, he has to admit to a couple of questionable activities - stalking Claras bus in his car, while daydreaming about possibly killing her at the first stop, and visiting Kimmel prior to Claras death, which ultimately begins to make him look like he was seeking some how-to advice from a wife-murderer.

Both Stackhouse and Kimmel soon encounter the formidable, possibly psychotic Lieutenant Lawrence Corby, a police officer with savage ambition who is convinced they are both guilty. Corby soon begins encroaching on his suspects lives, releasing details of their behavior to the press in an effort to distance them from their friends and work associates and repeatedly assaulting Kimmel.

Throughout, Walters blundering damages his relationships, his reputation and soon threatens his life.

                                     

2. Reception

In The New York Times, Anthony Boucher recognized the novels similarity to Strangers on a Train in its "striking plot idea", which is "so complex that it defies brief synopsis". He continued:

The novel starts off admirably both as suspense and as a deeper analysis of character, but passes the point of no return as the author gropes for and fails to find a way out of the intricate situation she has set up. Hardly a successful novel, but an ambitious and largely interesting attempt.

                                     

3. Film adaptations

  • A French-language screenplay based on the novel was the basis for the film Le Meurtrier directed by Claude Autant-Lara in 1963. Its English release was titled Enough Rope.
  • In May 2014, Killer Films and Sierra Pictures announced plans for a film adaptation of the novel to be directed by Andy Goddard and starring Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel. It was released in 2016 as A Kind of Murder.