Patricia Highsmith wrote this series of novels about Tom Ripley. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water are a chronicle of a charming and utterly sociopathic man. All evidence much black humor, and are notable as inverted mysteries in which Ripley always gets away with his crimes in the end.The labels Affably Evil, Sociopathic Hero and Villain Protagonist describe Ripley well, and every novel after the first invokes Villains Out Shopping by depicting Ripley's affluent life in the French countryside, beloved by his servants and engaging in artistic pursuits. Ripley is also somewhat Ambiguously Gay (or rather, explicitly states he just doesn't know what he is), although it could be argued that, like Dexter, he is simply a rather warped Chaste Hero, having difficulty forming any kind of relationship given his psychological problems.Highsmith's first three Ripley novels have all been adapted to film with Ripley being played variously by the actors Alain Delon, Matt Damon, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich and Barry Pepper.
Other tropes used in the series:
Alter Ego Acting: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom is able to both convincingly take Dickie Greenleaf's identity, and portray an exaggerated version of him before the same police officers who saw him as Dickie and get away with it.
Asshole Victim: Freddie. He's (correctly) suspicious of Tom from the moment they meet, but he acts like such a jerk, it's hard to feel sorry for him when Tom bashes his head in. Very tellingly, this is the one murder he displays no remorse for.
Dickie, to an extent. He cheats on Marge, then refuses to help the other girl when she gets pregnant. When she kills herself, his chief concern is how this will affect him. And the things he says to Tom just before the latter kills him are accurate, but delivered quite cruelly.
Cassandra Truth: Marge flat-out says to Tom, "I know you killed Dickie". Unfortunately, as she's rather screaming it and flailing her arms at him, she's dismissed as a hysterical female.
Inverted in the first film. After injuring himself when he falls off his bike, Tom tells Marge that Dickie hit him in order to lend credence to his cause.
Dead Artists Are Better: Played with in Ripley Under Ground, in that it features Ripley as part of a scam to produce further works of an artist unsuccessful in life who killed himself at a young age, and Ripley ends up masquerading as the artist.
Depraved Bisexual: Tom, in spades. In the scene where he spies on Dickie and Marge as they make love, it's hard to tell which one of them he's jealous of. He also seems quite in love with Peter, while simultaneously being very attracted to Meredith.
Devil in Plain Sight: Ripley is a version of this from the second book onward, as he has a lot of suspicion attached to himself but no one has ever been able to pin any crimes on him.
Dumb Blonde: Marge starts out as this, but smartens up as the film progresses, eventually realizing that Tom murdered Dickie. Unfortunately, this is the very reason everyone dismisses her accusations as hysterical.
Ripley clearly thinks Marge is a dumb blonde in the first book. She's the first one to suspect that Tom isn't quite what he seems in Mongiabello, but she fails to connect the dots in the second half of the book.
Entertainingly Wrong: In the first book, Ripley has to become Tom again in part because the authorities suspect that Dickie murdered Tom.
Meredith also. Not dumb, but clearly clueless as to the extent that she's being used and deceived by Tom.
Even Evil Has Standards: Ripley tries to avoid killing people unless absolutely necessary, first trying to get them to cooperate with his schemes. The only people he ever kills without any guilt are some gangsters in Ripley's Game.
Just in Time: Peter's arrival at Tom's apartment in all likelihood saved Marge's life (she'd found Dickie's rings among Tom's things and realized what he'd done). About the only other reason she wasn't dead yet is that Tom couldn't find a suitable weapon.
Karma Houdini: Except for the film 'Purple Noon', where he just barely misses pulling one of these off.
Little Black Dress: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Marge wears a black dress and stole to a party.
Manipulative Bastard: Tom. In particular, the sequence where he engineers a meeting between Marge and Meredith so that they can realize that Dickie is a jerk who's been stringing them both along and thus make Marge give up on trying to find out what's happened to him. In truth, he's been posing as Dickie while courting Meredith (even before killing off Dickie).
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Jude Law clearly loses his American accent in a scene where he admonishes Tom for cleaning up after him (a typical "highly emotional" scene where even the best actors can have trouble maintaining an unnatural accent).
Unreliable Narrator: While the books are narrated in third-person, everything is essentially from Ripley's perspective as he has the Sympathetic P.O.V., and thus his reasonings for his various crimes are presented as legitimate.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Aside from lying that Dickie hit him in order to retain Marge's sympathy, Tom pretends that his feelings are hurt by Marge's suspicions in order to gain similar sympathy from Peter.