The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

First published: 1964. 1. First lines 2. Cover: Grove Atlantic Little, Brown Hachette 3. Silhouettes [Public Domain] Wikimedia and PNGITEM

Chester McFarland, a conman with multiple false identities, is on the run with his wife Collette. He has come to Athens to get away from his pursuers, and crosses paths with Rydal Keener, a man who he initially thinks is following him. Rydal is inexplicably drawn into helping Chester to cover his tracks after a murder is committed. However, the two are soon at odds and warily keeping an eye on each other until the cat-and-mouse game culminates in tragedy.

What kind of a young man would aid and abet a man he knew to be wanted by the police, a man he knew had killed someone, even by accident?

Crime Fiction Lover: “The cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Rydal and Chester is tense and gripping, because each of these complex, haunted characters could be capable of anything. Written with sharp, efficient prose, this is a Greek tragedy that combines the author’s psychological insight with a suspenseful pursuit across Europe.” This reader, however, felt that even so, much of the dialogue is repetitive, which tends to stall the momentum.

Awards: Winner of the CWA Best Foreign Novel Award.

Adaptation: The Two Faces of January is a 2014 film written and directed by Hossein Amini, and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.


“Chester went on, a dark, plunging figure in the rain. Rydal started after him, nearly fell over his suitcase, and automatically picked it up. But after running a few steps with it, he set it down and ran back to the terrace.”

”Colette was silent, her hand tense on the table, her red nails digging into one red thumbnail. Her eyes, when she looked at Chester, were frightened, and a little reproachful., he thought.”

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