©1953 Ira Levin (P)2011 AudioGO
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This has been my favorite book so far. I started to hate that my commute ended!
Twists and turns kept me attentive. Wondering how the main character would handle certain situations.
My favorite character was Bud....
I rented the original movie last night. VERY disappointed. It didn't even follow the book. Sad me.
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.
Cunning sociopathic murderer
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.
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.
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.
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