A few months ago, I found myself reading, at last, Patricia Highsmith’s “The Boy Who Followed Ripley.” I had meant to read it before this — I’d fallen for Ripley, you could say, like many. And then, I’d drifted off. But now, years later, like many, I was desperate to break the spell, to read anything else other than the news, and get lost in that instead. I just needed a break in the horror, and something that wasn’t misspelled by the president, or by someone imitating his misspellings. I’d read “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Ripley Under Ground” a few years ago, and watched both film adaptations — “Purple Noon,” and then the eponymous Anthony Minghella picture, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwenyth Paltrow. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Matt Damon in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." (Phil Bray / Paramount Pictures) I had even come to an understanding of that first novel that gave me the twinge I get when I might begin writing a novel of my own: Marge, the original Tom Ripley’s girlfriend, is a writer to no purpose in the plot. It does not matter, at all, to the story. She is essentially there to be made a fool of — and to scream the alarm that Ripley has killed Dickie, so that it is all the more frightening when he gets away with it. For a writer as deliberate as Highsmith, who even wrote a book on how to write suspense, that makes this detail potentially something of a tell — a detail left over from an autobiographical episode, included because that is how it happened. I have no other proof of this, other than a life spent writing and teaching writing. And that the novel is easily an expansion of her theory of what happened, what she believes as she rages at Ripley by the end. It was easy to imagine Marge returning to New York and writing this novel — it could even have been her way of telling him she knew this to be true. When I turned to “Ripley, Under Ground,” next, I read it in part to see if my theory held up. That novel I found to be an entertaining if somewhat lighter art forgery novel, with desperate moments. Years after I read it, I came across a story of an art forgery ring in a small town in France that operated with details familiar to anyone who’d