Going native

© C A Lovegrove

The Tremor of Forgery
by Patricia Highsmith.
Introduction by Denise Mina.
Virago Press, 2015 (1969)

‘There were moments here in Hammamet, days and weeks, in fact, when I hadn’t any letters from you or from anybody, and I felt strange even to myself, as if I didn’t know myself. And part of it, perhaps – I know from a moral point of view – was that the Arabs all around me had different standards, different ethics. And they were in the majority, you see. This world is theirs, not mine.’

Chapter 20

The enigmatic title, supposedly the title of a novel the protagonist is writing, in fact indicates a key thread in this subtle tale of suspense. Handwriting experts can apparently identify telltale hesitation in a faked signature; and when author Howard Ingham dissembles or denies involvement in the disappearance of an individual, his behaviour also betrays the tremor of forgery.

Set in the summer of 1967 at the time of the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, The Tremor of Forgery speaks of a period of waiting, increasing heat and frustration. And yet living without monetary worries in a Tunisian beach resort could, perhaps should, on paper be an ideal existence.

Patricia Highsmith’s novel is carefully wrought: nothing much appears to happen yet we have suspense, murder and mystery – all understated, it’s true, yet though narrated in a matter-of-fact way it still draws the reader in and sustains their interest right to the last page.

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