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A Kiss Before Dying | [Ira Levin]

A Kiss Before Dying

Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures.
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Publisher's Summary

A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews, it also set a new standard in the art of mystery and suspense. Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures. But, then, he looks like the kind of guy who could get away with murder. Compellingly, step by determined step, the novel follows this young man in his execution of one plan he had neither dreamed nor foreseen. Nor does he foresee how inexorably he will be enmeshed in the consequences of his own extreme deed.

©1953 Ira Levin (P)2011 AudioGO

What Members Say

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4.0 (467 )
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  •  
    Nancy J Tornado Alley OK 06-07-14
    Nancy J Tornado Alley OK 06-07-14 Member Since 2011

    Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Exceptional Groundbreaking Crime Drama"

    When you listen to this book, it seems as fresh and current as it was when first published in 1953, with a main character psychopath/sociopath who is charming and ruthless, preying on young women and willing to kill to get what he wants.

    Ira Levin was 23 when "A Kiss Before Dying" was published, and I marvel at the taut, complex and frightening plot which he produced. This is especially true when you consider that his other works through his lifetime included "No Time For Sergeants," "The Boys From Brazil," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Stepford Wives."

    While I had previously seen a movie of this story, I had never read the book. The book is sooo much better at building the suspense and keeping you guessing. The author even manages to keep the reader guessing for a while over which of three possible young men is the culprit.

    The recording also contains an informative introduction about the author and the book, and how the book was received when it was first published.

    Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates taut and careful plotting, and enjoys classic mystery stories.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 11-09-12
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 11-09-12 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Oddly Flat, Yet Haunting Sense of Place"

    Written in the early 50s and this novel is both interesting yet flat because of its moment. It was a time when the techniques of pace had not yet been fully developed. Perhaps because there's so much competition for scarce leisure time, crime fiction writers have learned fast cuts, rapid panning, quick dialogue, and pace... pace... pace.... This is also the work of a very young and new writer at the time. But... but... it's a note perfect trip to a time of nickel juke boxes, women who smoked Benson & Hedges, and fedoras. Levin's late talent was glimmering through his construction of a moment just before the memory of many. I was not impressed with Mauro Hantman's thin voice. Distracting.

    On balance... can't recommend the book.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 01-02-15
    David 01-02-15 Member Since 2012

    Indiscriminate Reader

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    "Pacey, suspenseful thriller"

    If at first you don't succeed, get rid of the girl and move on to the next sister.

    A Kiss Before Dying is a taut little thriller about a sociopath who conceives an ingenuous plan to seduce the daughter of a wealthy copper baron. Except she goes and gets pregnant before his plan can come to fruition. Since Daddy is the moralistic disinheriting type, he figures a kid before they are properly married and he's had time to work his charms and soften the old man up will just ruin everything. When he can't persuade her to get rid of it, he's left with only one option - a well-planned murder in which he manages to make it look like a suicide, and then avoid any connection between him and the dead girl.

    Which allows him to move on to daughter #2.

    But daughter #2 proves a little too intuitive — she starts putting clues together and realizing her sister didn't commit suicide, and wants to find out who murdered her. She figures everything out just a little too late.

    And our boy, as long on audacity as he is short on scruples, decides third time's the charm: the rich industrialist had three daughters, and after all that research he did to seduce the first two, he knows the oldest sister pretty well...

    As improbable as this story may sound, I couldn't really spot any plot holes. Sure, our protagonist needed a bit of luck here and there, but nothing so overwhelmingly coincidental as to be completely implausible. He's just a meticulous, cold-blooded schemer with a knack for manipulation.

    A lot of people want books with "relocatable" protagonists. Well, the protagonist of this book is a murderous, gold-digging sociopath. You want him to trip up and get caught, and you want his victims to get away, and at the same time, the exciting part is finding out how he's going to get away with it.

    This book is dated now — it was written in 1954 and it's set in the early fifties, so the campus life described, and the so-visible class distinctions are not the same as now, but that just makes this suspenseful novel a period piece as well. In fact, some of the period details are what made it interesting. For example, there is surprisingly little moralizing about the proposed abortion — she doesn't want to do it, but it seems more for emotional reasons than any real ethical or religious qualms. And it struck me that in some ways, the "boy from the wrong side of the tracks" was a thing that would be even harder to envision today — nowadays, we like to pretend that American society is less class-stratified, but that's because the rich are increasingly distant and out of sight. Working class people just don't socialize, at all, with the very wealthy, which makes it easier for us to pretend that there is no such thing as class.

    Ira Levin also wrote other thrillers, like Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, and with this pacey, suspenseful novel, it's easy to see how readily his stories became a part of pop culture. Definitely worth reading, and motivated me to read more by him someday.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 10-02-14
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 10-02-14 Member Since 2010

    sam_perera

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    "Enjoyable ..."

    I had sorely missed reading a good crime novel for ages. Some list recommended this as a worthy read and I was intrigued by the Author. I had not known of Ira Levin and many of his writings that were turned into major motion pictures. Someone wrote that this novel, the first from Levin, is his Magnum opus

    Certainly the character of Bud Corliss, a certified psychopath is an intriguing invention. As you read through the pages, you can feel the drive of this individual to attain the one thing he lacks; money, fame and social standing. He will do anything to attain his goals including outright murder. He feels nothing for his victims as he calculatingly removes his obstacles.

    This is not a mystery novel but a true, fast paced, crime story. It is beautifully written and keeps you well engaged until the last page is turned. I really enjoyed this book and thoroughly recommend it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathrin Greenville SC 07-11-14
    Kathrin Greenville SC 07-11-14
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    "Timeless"

    This story was written in the 50s and feels timeless and modern still. It keeps the reader thinking and engaged the whole time, trying to figure it out along with the main character.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Satsarbat 07-01-14
    Satsarbat 07-01-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Buzz kill intro!!!"
    What would have made A Kiss Before Dying better?

    No intro or put at the end of the book. It gives away way too much I have no idea why anyone thought this a good idea


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BookReader Chicago, IL, United States 06-03-14
    BookReader Chicago, IL, United States 06-03-14 Member Since 2001
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    "A Kiss Before Dying"
    Any additional comments?

    Fun listening. A Kiss Before Dying is just under nine hours, narrated nicely by Mauro Hentman. Written in 1953, the story might be considered today to be YA, in that the setting is the college world and there are no explicit sex scenes. A handsome, alpha male finds himself trapped into marrying a fellow student because of an unplanned pregnancy. The story follows his devious mechinations through her and her siblings to get his hands on family fortunes. The environs of the 1950s is a treat to listen to, i.e., a housedress is mentioned, as are phone booths, the bad guy wears a fedora (and he’s in college), a girl wears white gloves and a hat with lace, considerable smoking, all common place at the time. Part of creating most of the college-age male characters includes military service, i.e., Japan during WWII. Keep in mind that A Kiss Before Dying was written in the early 1950s, and is not simply a modern-day who-done-it written to convey the 1950s.

    Shortly after this book was written, it received many plaudits in addition to an Edgar Award for best break out mystery novel. This story is probably a must read for anyone interested in reading, or writing, the crime thriller.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lora New Milford, CT, United States 06-01-14
    Lora New Milford, CT, United States 06-01-14 Member Since 2013
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    "My favorite so far!"
    Where does A Kiss Before Dying rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This has been my favorite book so far. I started to hate that my commute ended!


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    Twists and turns kept me attentive. Wondering how the main character would handle certain situations.


    Which character – as performed by Mauro Hantman – was your favorite?

    My favorite character was Bud....


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    I rented the original movie last night. VERY disappointed. It didn't even follow the book. Sad me.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 05-30-14
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 05-30-14 Member Since 2008
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    "Story begins well, weakens, ends with a whimper"

    This is no work of genius, contrary to the critical/biographical introduction lauding Ira Levin.
    The intro prepares the reader for great things which, for me, were not delivered.
    Many novels start strong, because the author expends his all at the start. The back and forth story grows convoluted and vague and the characters do not really develop, rather, they become more superficial and unconvincing: it is difficult to empathize with anyone; a good writer draws the reader into the emotions and motives of all the characters.
    As the book progresses, Levin's straight-forward style degenerates into purple prose and drags on tediously toward a makeshift and anti-climatic end. A Kiss Before Dying is a story that doesn't know where it's going.
    A real classic in the noir genre is is James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, a superb tale of the criminal impulse infecting ordinary people. Levin's "Kiss" just doesn't make the grade.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Boyce Brentwood, TN, United States 05-30-14
    Boyce Brentwood, TN, United States 05-30-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Superb in every way!!!"
    If you could sum up A Kiss Before Dying in three words, what would they be?

    Cunning sociopathic murderer


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    Yes...I could not put it down. It is a very tightly woven, detailed murder mystery with a huge surprise that took me completely by surprise, so much so that I had to stop reading and work through what I had just read to figure out what had happened. The vocabulary is wonderful and specifically descriptive. I will read it again.


    Have you listened to any of Mauro Hantman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first Hantman performance for me, but my next selection will be a performance by him. His voice is perfect. He performs female voices every bit as well as he does male voices. His pacing is perfect. His voice is a pleasure to hear.


    Any additional comments?

    Set, and written, in the 1950's, it was a welcome return to the days of my adolescence. I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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