This Sweet Sickness

Maybe I’m overdosing on Highsmith because she’s the perfect complement to the insanity of today’s world. So here’s another, this not among her worst or her best; pub’d in 1960, bouncing back from her unreadable 1958 book set in Mexico.

The “hero,” David Kelsey, is an absolute nut, living a splintered life in a boardinghouse during the week and then scampering off on weekends to a house he bought where he lives a fantasy life with the woman he loved but who married someone else. His boardinghouse and work think he spends weekends with his dying mother in a nursing home, but she’s been dead fourteen years. David buys the house under a fake name, William Neumeister, and lives an entirely different life as Bill, smoking and drinking cocktails while he pretends that Annabelle lives with him. David continues to write to Annabelle, insisting that she spend a few days leading up to Christmas with him in NYC, calling her house, and generally terrorizing her. He shows up one day and meets the husband, insults him, and leaves. The continued behavior drives Gerald, the husband, to the brink of wanting to kill David, and he shows up at the boardinghouse with a gun. David’s neighbor Effie gives Gerald the location of the house that David spends the weekends at, and Gerald arrives, brandishing the gun, gets into a scuffle, is shoved by David, clonks his head, and dies. David/Bill drives the body to the police and gives a full report acting as William Neumeister, then proceeds to sell his house, quit his job, get another job and move to a different town. Effie’s in love with David and keeps his secret, but as David becomes more and more unhinged (Annabelle marries a different man after Gerald’s death), Effie & his friend Wes visit and David accidentally kills her. The last pages are when he’s on the lam in NYC, acting weird as Bill, pretending he and Annabelle are on their honeymoon, ordering 2 dinners with 2 drinks, then showing up at an old college buddy’s apartment who then sends his wife out for the police. He ends up jumping from their apartment, but does he hit the police net or die?