A Kiss Before Dying

By: Ira Levin
Narrated by: Mauro Hantman
Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
4 out of 5 stars (844 ratings)

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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 listeners say about A Kiss Before Dying

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Nothing like a classic.....

I've read this book several times -- never seen either of the film adaptations -- so I knew the story well. I thought it would be fun to have someone read it to me for a change.

It was. I loved the introduction at the beginning -- told a little bit about the book when it was published in 1953, when Ira Levin was just 23 years old, about how it was received back then. That set the stage.

Suffice it to say that the audible version is a total delight, doesn't disappoint in the slightest. It's stood the test of time very well -- nothing in it is old, everything could happen just as easily today as it did back them.

Most fascinating was thinking about the mind of the author, Ira Levin-- how he could come up with this innovative plot, then move on to works like 'Deathtrap', surely one of the most pleasantly confounding plays ever produced. Then to move on to the Nazi thriller, 'The Boys from Brazil' then 'Rosemary's Baby' -- a very different genre.. After that, 'Sliver' -- also outstanding -- and 'The Stepford Wives', a classic in its own right And all this from an author who's first produced play was the comedy "No Time for Sergeants"!

I've loved every one of Levin's books for different reasons. I'm so happy the Audible made "A Kiss Before Dying" available in audio, and hope that both 'Sliver' -- which is much like 'Kiss' in many ways -- and "The Stepford Wives" will be available soon, too. Although the film version of that, starring Katherine Ross and Tine Louise, of all people, was very good, it doesn't compare to the written version. Levin's books are really are classics, all of them. I know I'll listen to "Kiss" again and again. It's just a very very good book.

36 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Mystery/Thriller!

Ira Levin is best known for his horror and thriller tales from the 1960s and '70s, including Rosemary's Baby and the Stepford Wives--both undoubted classics. This book from the 1950s should be far better known that it is, because it is the equal of his later work, but in the more standard genre of mystery. Levin is a magnificent plotter, and I guarantee you will not have foreseen some of the twists he provides here. But beyond that, he manages to make you care about all the characters, good and bad. I cannot provide much detail without giving away some of the surprises, but believe me that for a novel in the mystery/thriller vein, you could not do better than A Kiss Before Dying. In addition, this narrator, who is new to me, does a wonderful job of providing distinctive but not distracting voicing for each character. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

23 people found this helpful

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A Clever Masterpiece of Mystery and Suspense.

This book was originally written in 1953 and I have really started taking a liking to these old mystery novels. It is not the same as a novel written today in where the setting is in the 1950s, but an actual novel written during that timeframe thinks nothing of mentioning smoking in college classrooms, the jukebox on the table at your favorite coffee shop, or the folded handkerchief that gentleman would offer ladies who were crying. You just gotta love those little details.

This story was clever masterpiece of mystery and suspense. Our young protagonist is a gentleman determined to make it big by marrying big. He tries to find young ladies who are daughters of wealthy families to date. He woos them carefully, so if the relationship doesn’t work out, he can move on without alerting other young ladies that he is dating girls for their potential to make him rich. He thinks he has found the perfect girl in Dorothy.

All is going well until Dorothy turns up pregnant. Then he sees all of his carefully laid plans start to go down the drain. He can’t just dump her, that wouldn’t look good. He can’t marry her because her father would disown her because of the unplanned pregnancy. Then he wouldn’t get any money and they would have to live in poverty. But if she were to suffer an ‘accident’ then he would be off the hook and could continue dating again.
Now it seems like he has gotten away with the perfect crime … or has he? One of Dorothy’s sisters gets involved and starts asking questions and he begins to feel threatened by her discoveries. If she finds out too much, he might go to jail and never get rich. Maybe she should have an ‘accident’ too before she discovers too much.

Overall this was a great little mystery / suspense story. Even though you know who killed Dorothy there were many, many more twists and turns in this book. Enough to keep you going full speed ahead until you see the light. It was a very satisfying read.

The Narration Review
This audiobook was narrated by Hauro Hantman. He has a nice, clear, and soft spoken voice. He was very easy to listen to and he had a calming effect. Definitely a voice you can listen to while relaxing. There were a few times in the story where the juke box was playing and instead of just reading the lyrics, Hauro sang the tunes. I discovered that Hauro has a very pleasant singing voice, too!

18 people found this helpful

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Lip smacking good

What fun to discover a classic that has not come my way before. Loved everything about this: the plot, the structure, and the narrator.

Levin's story is riveting, featuring a very believable bad guy with mind boggling self confidence and resourcefulness. The book is structured around three episodes, each one with memorable characters and building suspense, capped by surprise. And the narrator guides us well, bringing it all to life.

If I'd been reading this, I'm sure I'd have skipped ahead to find out the ending - love that that's a lot harder in Audible versions!




10 people found this helpful

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🐖🐖🐖🐺Man Smart, Woman Unfortunately Not Smarter

For my acquaintance with this nearly perfect book, I am grateful to a reviewer I used to follow (back when Audible allowed Followers and the beloved Listeners I Follow page, which I still dearly miss). This reviewer pointed out that of all the thrillers that try to shock the reader wirh an enormous, unexpected reversal or twist, A Kiss Before Dying was the first and one of the only books to truly pull it off in a masterful way. Having now read it, I agree. I would put in on a very short list of just three books that contained twists or reversals I never saw coming, but that made perfect sense once they did: Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper, the new psychological thriller The Silent Patient, and now A Kiss Before Dying, which as the reviewer I followed pointed out, succeeded first, in 1953. (It also created the template for Caroline Kepnes’ You, as discerning readers will quickly notice.) This was a spellbinding, almost too-terrifying-to-listen-while-driving story, at first seemingly farfetched and yet horribly believable, and I recommend it almost without qualification.

My only complaint is that I wished the women were smarter, and also that we got to know them better. As in Caroline Kepnes’ You, we are mostly inside the mind of the killer, so other characters never seem as fully realized or as fully human. Ellen came closest, and my terror for her safety was so acute around the middle of the book that I had to stop listening for awhile and return to a dry nonfiction book just to recover my equanimity. I think the author intentionally recreates here the classic children’s story of The Three Little Pigs (at one point, the killer even wonders Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Gold-Digger), and let’s just say I was somewhat disappointed when Marion, the third little piggy, didn’t bear as much resemblance to that plucky, independent and resourceful creature as I would have liked.

Overall, though, I loved it, and unlike some other reviewers I thought the narrator did a fully adequate job with the material.

Grade: A-
Bechdel Test: Fail, I think. But let’s remember it was written in 1953, and by a man.

2 people found this helpful

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The classical psychological suspense

A KISS BEFORE DYING is an Edgar Award Winning classic mystery that, arguably, was the beginning of the modern psychological mystery thriller. This is a classic tale of murder for money, but it's the brazenness of the criminal that becomes the shocker.

Young handsome college student meets beautiful young coed. They plan to marry, but for all the wrong reasons. Our handsome hero is anything but the hero. We get to experience all of his thinking as he plans out his wonderful life that just need lots of money to be complete. Coming from a very poor background, what better way to use his brains and good looks, than to find the perfect rich wife. Only when complications arise, maybe she needs to dye. Maybe this happens one too many times!!

The build up of the plot through the killer's mind is done beautifully in this book. His "out there" reasoning is followed through from beginning to end in a book that constantly makes the reader want to warn the characters of impending danger throughout the story. Suspense is built to a tingling point more than once in this masterful psychological suspense. Many of Ira Levin's books were made into movies, but the book never reads like a movie script. Must read for anyone thinking of writing psychological suspense.

13 people found this helpful

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Great book!

I don't want to spoil anything but I have to say that my mouth literally dropped open at a certain point in the story. I ran over and rewound my ipod just to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. Excellent example of a classic mystery.

12 people found this helpful

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Don’t get between a narcissist/psycho & his goals

I don’t usually read crime or suspense novels, but I read this one because of its author’s reputation and the reputation of the novel itself. I’m glad I did. Nothing impresses me more than when an author can really surprise you. And Ira Levin really delivers in this suspense classic. That’s all I’ll say about surprises.

One of the reasons I usually don’t enjoy suspense novels is because they are, obviously, designed to make you tense. And, if you can’t keep reading, say because you have to go to work, then you remain in suspense. This book did keep me in suspense, but it was a fun ride, so no regrets.

I recommend this book, especially if you are a crime/suspense fan and would like to read an early example of top notch suspense writing.

6 people found this helpful

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Didn't quite deliver

This book is well-written and captures the time period very effectively. The events leading up to the conclusion were interesting with clear characters and description. However, I left the book feeling a little let down. The ending was not very clever and left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied. I read "Rosemary's Baby" and had really enjoyed that, but feel that this book had the potential to be better than it turned out to be.

10 people found this helpful

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An Oldie but a Darn Goodie

STORY (suspense) - This book was written in the 1950s and has become a classic...and for good reason. As the summary suggests, it's about the murder of a young girl named Dorothy and has the added psychological component of allowing the listener into the killer's head as he plans the deed. But what the summary doesn't tell you is that that's just the beginning! There's much more that happens in this story. Wish I could give a hint but, since the summary didn't, I won't either.

The book is very well written, and the author uses an extensive vocabulary. I didn't use a dictionary because I still was able to understand everything, plus I didn't want to disrupt my listening experience. (Words like " avuncular" and "susurrant" come to mind.) Even though the story takes place about 66 years ago at the writing of this review, it's still unusual and special. You may even enjoy reminiscing about luncheonettes, telephone booths and radios that have to warm up before they will work. And the suspense grows until the very end. I thought I had everything figured out, but I was totally surprised at how things wrapped up. Love it when that happens!

PERFORMANCE - The reader does a good job, although he doesn't even attempt to differentiate between the main characters (a pet peeve of mine). I particularly dislike his portrayal of a male (can't say who) toward the end of the book. The character is obviously a good guy and trying to help, yet he comes across as a smug a$$hole. Maybe it was the reader's attempt to misdirect listeners as to his motives, but I didn't like it.

OVERALL - I'd recommend this book for anyone old enough to enjoy a good, suspenseful murder story. There's no cursing or sex, and the murders aren't excessively gory or violent. (It's the 50's...)

6 people found this helpful