Strangers on a train

Murder most casual: why Patricia Highsmith’s thrillers are so chilling

Patricia Highsmith’s life was filled with more eccentric, disturbing brilliance than most readers can normally handle; and so the chief attraction of this third biography in 18 years (released to commemorate her 100th birthday) may be its brevity. From the time Highsmith was born (after a failed abortion attempt by her parents), her story starts off dark and then gets much, much darker. Raised in Fort Worth, Texas by the granddaughter of former slave owners, she survived the Spanish influenza to become a smart, hard-drinking student at Barnard, where she exploited, at every opportunity, her affections for pretty, well-bred girls. She wrote comics for a while (even going on a