Having myself published a novel called The Mystery Writer, I felt a frisson of fellowship on receiving The Crime Writer, the more so on realising that Dawson’s book, like mine, mixes historical fact with fiction. The main character in Dawson’s book is based on the notoriously gay, notoriously sinister crime writer Patricia Highsmith. The action takes place in the mid-1960s, when Highsmith was living in a cottage in East Soham in Suffolk and writing her novel A Suspension of Mercy. A pushy young woman inveigles herself into Pat’s life, initially in the guise of a journalist. She probes away at Pat’s privacy, with Pat feebly protesting: ‘Leave the novels alone – the unconscious bits should remain unconscious.’ But Pat also has a conscious secret to guard. She has crossed the line that very few people cross, turning imagined deeds into reality. You do not need to be a passionate Highsmith fan to admire this beautifully written and elegant novel, but I think it will particularly appeal to those who have read her books and know something about her life; they should recognise many of the allusions and ideas.

– Jessica Mann

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