Dawson often draws on real people for inspiration in her novels, and this one is no exception. Here, she takes the fascinating character of the legendary crime novelist Patricia Highsmith as both a subject for biographical scrutiny and the protagonist of an imagined story, in which Highsmith crosses the line between writing about murderers and becoming one herself.

The setting is rural Suffolk in 1964. Highsmith is hiding out, furiously writing and conducting both a secretive affair with a married woman in London (similar to the eponymous Carol, of the film based on her book The Price Of Salt) and a tender friendship with Ronald Blythe, the author of Akenfield. So far, so true.

But Dawson’s Pat is also obsessed with what it would be like to actually kill someone, and she has someone particular in mind. A beautifully crafted and utterly riveting blend of fact and fiction about a fascinating 20th-century figure.

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