Book summary: The Cry of the Owl

1962 BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

This “extraordinary story” (Julian Symons) begins with an act of naive voy­eurism. Robert Forester, a depressed but fundamentally decent man, liked to watch Jenny through her kitchen window—a harmless palliative, as he saw it, to his lonely life and failed marriage. As he is drawn into her life, however, the recriminations of his simple pleasure shatter the deceptive calm of this small Pennsylvania town. With striking clarity and horrible inevitability, Forester is caught up in a series of deaths in which he is the innocent bystander, presumed guilty. Highsmith has once again, as Graham Greene wrote, “created a world of her own—a world claustrophobic and irrational which we enter each time with a sense of personal danger.” And that sense of danger grows from the first page to the sinister and chilling conclusion.

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