When Harry Potter 7 came out in bookstores, my brother, his wife, and I all went to the midnight release and bought three copies. We each spent the next few days reading it the same room at individual paces. Someone made a joke about a line where Harry and Ron are talking about their wands. And we sort of made out of context jokes like that for the next 3 days.
This book had the same effect on me, except I definitely think this time it was intentional on the author’s part, and if it wasn’t, man did she has something on her mind.
This is the same book the Hitchcock movie is based on. Bruno and Guy meet on the train, get drunk together, talk about their woes: Bruno’s got daddy issues, loves his mother, and wants him gone to get his rightful inheritance–Guy’s married to a two-timer who’s now pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. Bruno hatches a plan to switch up their problems and plan a perfect murder. Guy gets drunk and doesn’t protest enough.
Once the first deed is done, Bruno starts hounding Guy, sending letters to his job, his friends, and his fiance. Guy feels insane guilt and pressure and internal conflict. There’s a giant climactic confrontation, etc etc etc. It’s a noir crime book.
It’s about gay panic. Two men are drawn to each other on the train, one is more of the initiator, but the other is game. They get drunk to talk about their troubled life, it’s a work trip so the real world doesn’t feel real. Guy is even reading Plato, and leaves the book in the car with Bruno. Guy wishes he could get out of his marriage, and is looking for the next woman to take his mind off his guilt. He dresses super nice and has feminine features–not man enough for his old wife.
The next night, hungover, clear light of morning and all that, Guy feels guilt and puts it all out of mind. Bruno however starts obsessing over his hatred for Guy’s wife….wants to hurt her, destroy her…not just for cheating, but for unmanning Guy, for unmanning all men. So he kills her.
Then he starts hounding Guy. It’s like their illicit night in the train was a kind of agreement between the two of them and once their problems were gone they could have a real a genuine friendship together. But when he’s done his part, Guy backs down and Bruno learns about the new woman. He hates women, feel betrayed, asks Guy “Why didn’t you tell me?”
So the rest of the novel, through this lens, feels like two men who had sex on a train, one closeted and angry, the other maybe not actually gay, but feeling different about the night, they separate. When Bruno feels like he was abandoned he starts using the social threat of revealing their shared secret or outing Guy to his friends and colleagues. Throughout the last bits, the whole thing comes down to shutting up Bruno and keeping him from exposing him.