The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a 1955 psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith. This novel introduced the character of Tom Ripley, who returns in four subsequent novels. It has been adapted numerous times for film, including the 1999 film of the same name.

The Talented Mr. Ripley
First US edition
AuthorPatricia Highsmith
CountryUnited States
GenreCrime novel
Publisher  Coward-McCann (United States)
  Cresset Press (United Kingdom)
Publication date
November 30, 1955[1]
Media typePrint (hardback, paperback)
Followed byRipley Under Ground 


Tom Ripley is a young man struggling to make a living in New York City by whatever means necessary, including a series of small-time confidence scams. One day, he is approached by shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf to travel to "Mongibello", in Italy, to persuade Greenleaf's errant son, Dickie, to return to the United States and join the family business. Ripley agrees, exaggerating his friendship with Dickie, a half-remembered acquaintance, in order to gain the elder Greenleaf's trust.

Shortly after his arrival in Italy, Ripley meets Dickie and Dickie's friend Marge Sherwood; although Ripley ingratiates himself with Dickie, Marge does not seem to like him very much. As Ripley and Dickie spend more time together, Marge feels left out and begins insinuating to Dickie that Ripley is gay. Dickie becomes upset when he unexpectedly finds Ripley in his bedroom dressed up in his clothes and imitating his mannerisms.

From this moment on, Ripley senses that Dickie has begun to tire of him, resenting his constant presence and growing personal dependence. Ripley has indeed become obsessed with Dickie, which is further reinforced by his desire to imitate and maintain the wealthy lifestyle Dickie has afforded him. As a gesture to Ripley, Dickie agrees to travel with him on a short holiday to Sanremo. Sensing that he is about to cut him loose, Ripley finally decides to murder Dickie and assume his identity. When the two set sail in a small rented boat, Ripley beats him to death with an oar, dumps his anchor-weighted body into the water, and scuttles the boat.

Ripley assumes Dickie's identity, living off the latter's trust fund and carefully providing communications to Marge to assure her that Dickie has dumped her. Freddie Miles, an old friend of Dickie's from Dickie's same social set, encounters Ripley at what he supposes to be Dickie's apartment in Rome; he soon suspects something is wrong. When Miles finally confronts him, Ripley kills him with an ashtray. He later disposes of the body on the outskirts of Rome, attempting to make police believe that robbers have murdered Miles.

Ripley enters a cat-and-mouse game with the Italian police but manages to keep himself safe by restoring his own identity and moving to Venice. In succession, Marge, Dickie's father, and an American private detective confront Ripley, who suggests to them that Dickie was depressed and may have committed suicide. Marge stays for a while at Ripley's rented house in Venice. When she discovers Dickie's rings in Ripley's possession, she seems to be on the verge of realising the truth. Panicked, Ripley contemplates murdering Marge, but she is saved when she says that if Dickie gave his rings to Ripley, then he probably meant to kill himself.

The story concludes with Ripley traveling to Greece and resigning himself to eventually getting caught. However, he discovers that the Greenleaf family has accepted that Dickie is dead, and that they have transferred his inheritance to Ripley – in accordance with a will forged by Ripley on Dickie's Hermes typewriter. While the book ends with Ripley happily rich, it also suggests that he may forever be dogged by paranoia. In one of the final paragraphs, he nervously envisions a group of police officers waiting to arrest him, and Highsmith leaves her protagonist wondering, "...was he going to see policemen waiting for him on every pier that he ever approached?"


In 1956, the Mystery Writers of America nominated the novel for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best novel.[2] In 1957, the novel won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière as best international crime novel.[3]

On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed The Talented Mr. Ripley on its list of the 100 most influential novels.[4]



  • The novel was first adapted for a January 1956 episode of the anthology television series Studio One.



  • The 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the Ripley novels stars Ian Hart as Ripley, Stephen Hogan as Dickie, and Barbara Barnes as Marge.[7]



  1. "List of Books Published Today". The New York Times: 31. November 30, 1955.
  2. Milligan, Michael (2011). "Edgar Award Winners and Nominees Database". Mystery Writers of America. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
  3. "Guide des Prix littéraires". (in French) Guide des Prix littéraires, online ed. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  4. "100 'most inspiring' novels revealed by BBC Arts". BBC News. 2019-11-05. Retrieved 2019-11-10. The reveal kickstarts the BBC's year-long celebration of literature.
  5. Baradwaj Rangan (7 September 2012). "Lights, Camera, Conversation… "The attempt to judge an attempt"". Baradwaj Rangan. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  6. Malini Mannath (20 August 2012). "Naan (Tamil)". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  7. "BBC Radio 4 Programmes – Saturday Play, The Complete Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley". Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  8. "Bionic Woman stars in Northampton". 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
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