Last autumn while researching the mystery genre for a paper that ended up focusing on Patricia Cornwell's death irreverance, she bought Nothing that Meets the Eye by Patricia Highsmith. She also bought Highsmith's novel Strangers on a Train, which she enjoyed but thinks Highsmith accomplishes as much, or more, in a short story. Highsmith's plain but focused style is a similar to Carol Shields'--both authors have a similar sophisticated poignancy and a real eye for the moments inside people.
Like several good collections, she slowed herself down in finishing it so as to savor the good reading.
Although Highsmith's known for The Talented Mr. Ripley, which she has not seen or read, and known as a mystery writer, much of the stories in Nothing That Meets the Eye would qualify for either the mystery or sleuth genres, which is neither here nor there unless you picked up the book expecting more of an Edgar Allan Poe rather than an O'Henry.
The collection spans from 1938 to 1982 (on a personal note, from about the birth of Erin's mother to the birth of Erin), and the stories range in setting from Mexico to New York City to Evanston, IL. As of the time of this review, her favorite stories were "Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is always Out" which is about an ex-taxi driver in his mid-30s who gets off the train in a small, idealistic town (the Americana pie town) and rents a room and tours the town while his perceptions change from tourist to native and the happiness he thought the town had brought him slowly decays as he becomes friends with a local girl.
Another story, "The Still Point of the Turning World" also deals with perception (though most every story does and quite well) and takes place in a small park and is told from both the point of view of a rich woman who takes her child to play there for the first time and, in her perception, an impoverished and dirty woman who also takes her child to play at the park. The ending is quite heartrending and perfect. "The Pianos of the Steinachs" is quite fine, too, perhaps simply because of the way Highsmith conveys the experience of playing and hearing piano music. ------- Several years after reading the book, she still thinks of the stories, one very sweet one about a man who answers people's ads for their lost parakeets and another fun one about a single woman in the city who is getting her apartment together for her sister to visit, and another about a woman the last few days of her life. It is a book to return to, in mind or on the shelf where it awaits. Highsmith is definitely a master fiction writer--up there with Flannery O'Connor.