Books Read in 2015 – 13. A Kiss Before Dying – Ira Levin

Genre: American Crime

Narrative Style: 3rd person narration from multiple viewpointsUnknown-1

Rating: 5/5

Published: 1953

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: The future had looked so rosy but then Dorothy announced she was pregnant and all his plans came crashing down. He knows he has to something – indeed he will do anything – to ensure his plans come to fruition. He is a man of ambition and his goal is the millions of wealthy copper ore family, the Kingships. He will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he feels he deserves. 

I was familiar with the plot of this story, having seen the film with Matt Dillon in the early 90s so I was eager to see what the book was like. As with other books by Levin, I was impressed to see that the book was even better than the film versions. Levin really was a master of suspense and he certainly kept me reading on.

The novel starts with an unnamed male narrator discovering that his girlfriend, Dorothy Kingship is pregnant. This does not please him but it soon comes clear he feels there is more at stake than merely the loss of his freedom. He has been courting Dorothy with the hope of marrying her and gaining access to her family’s money. If her father discovers the pregnancy, she will be cut off. At first, he tries to make her take pills that will make her miscarry and then, when that doesn’t work, his thoughts take an even darker turn. He cons Dorothy into thinking he will marry her and then lures her on to the roof of the building before pushing her off, making it look like suicide. I must admit, I felt little sympathy for Dorothy and I was more concerned with how he might overcome the obstacles that fate presented for him. It was fascinating to watch the thought processes of a psychopath unfurl. Especially one who thinks he may be getting away with the perfect crime.

In the second part, we are presented with Dorothy’s sister, Ellen who is unconvinced by her sister’s supposed suicide. She has some information about a boy who was seeing Dorothy and she is determined that he had something to do with her death. She meets two men, both of which fit the bill. As the man from the first part is never named, the reader is also in the dark about his identity. I was genuinely surprised when his identity was revealed.

The final part concerns the final sister, recovering slowly from one sister’s suicide and the next one’s murder. She seems to have found the perfect man. He likes all the things she likes. He is a gentleman although he is poor. Now the reader is fully aware that this is the same man from the start and the tension is now whether he will indeed get away with it. The ending was intense and immensely satisfying. It was also a relief. The tension before the end is almost unbearable. An excellent read.