The life of Patricia Highsmith was as secretive and unusual as that of many of the best-known characters who people her "peerlessly disturbing" thrillers and short stories. Yet even as her work has found new popularity in the last few years, the life of this famously elusive writer has remained a mystery. For Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Highsmith, British journalist Andrew Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters she left behind, astonishing in their candor and detail. He interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers. But Wilson also traces Highsmith's literary roots in the work of Poe, noir, and existentialism, locating the influences that helped distinguish Highsmith's writing so startlingly from more ordinary thrillers. The result is both a serious critical biography and one that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman, one who despite her acclaim and affairs always maintained her solitude.