This is another Patricia Highsmith novel, this one from 1961. Reading about it, it seems like she’s writing a kind of psychological novel about prison life in the United States. We meet Philip Carter, a young engineer in prison for embezzlement and fraud (charges we understand are false — as he was a fall guy for a conman who died recently). He’s been in prison for a few weeks and in an attempt to appease his cell mate he delivers some contraband cigarettes when he’s caught by the guards (in a set up/pay back from his cellmate) and strung up by the thumbs in an old cell in the basement for 48 hours, destroying his thumbs permanently).
This injury is just one of many injustices Carter faces that also includes denied appeals for new trials, the sneaking, deep suspicion that his wife is sleeping with a friend, and a destroyed life and career.
So like I said, this seemed at first to be a psychological novel, but it turns into a psychological thriller when Carter gets out and begins looking for revenge or a kind of life that was stolen from him.
Ultimately this one is weird. It’s not great as either psychological novel or thriller, but it’s not bad as either as well. So it’s kind of stuck in between these two places, and suffers as a result. It ends up being a little more middling than other Highsmith novels, but does effectively discuss and portray a really infuriating and terrifying sense of injustice.