A Kiss Before Dying

Review From User :

"'You're crazy,' he told himself aloud one day, looking at the list. 'You're a crazy nut,' he said affectionately. He didn't really think that; he thought he was daring, audacious, brilliant, intrepid and bold."

1956 movie version of the book. I remember it being really good.

I can't even tell you his name because he didn't tell me until I was a of the way through the novel. I thought I knew who he was, but I was wrong. You will be wrong, too, and I want you to be wrong because I want you to be as unnerved as I was when you find out who he is. More importantly, you will discover what he is.

He is a sociopath.

He tries to fit into society but finds the experience very unsatisfying. "By the end of August, when he had been in New York five months and had had six jobs, he was again prey to the awful insecurity of being one among many rather than one alone; unadmired and with no tangible sign of success. He sat in his furnished room and devoted some time to serious self-analysis. If he had not found what he wanted in these six jobs, he decided, it was unlikely that he would find it in the next six."

So our guy can't find the perfect job and decides that getting rich on his own (he is so brilliant he should be rich) is a lot more work, takes a lot of time and a dollop of luck. Wouldn't it be easier to just marry money Hey, you don't have to be a sociopath to think that is a good idea. After weighing all the girls at college, he finally settles on Dorothy Kingship. Her name denotes her status. Her father is a copper king worth fabulous amounts of money. She is the middle daughter of three. She is beautiful (bonus) and insecure (huge bonus). Everything is going smoothly; then Dorothy gets knocked up.

He has already jumped from the highboard into the family pool, but instead of a swan dive, he smacks the water with that ugly sound of a dive gone wrong. All those puffy cloud dreams he had about his future as the son-in-law of a filthy, rich man dissipate, and all he is left with is the vision of Dorothy's swelling stomach.

This can't be!

Her father will disown her. Dorothy doesn't care about the money, which is infuriating to him. Their conversation reminds me of the interactions between William and Jocelyn in the movie A Knight's Tale.

"Jocelyn: 'Now be gone! Go! William.'

William: 'Where will we live In my hovel With the pigs inside during the winter so they won't freeze'

Joceyln: 'Yes, William. With the pigs.'"

Which is all very romantic...for about a week, and then when her hair, clothes, and skin start to smell like swine, she will pine for the scents of jasmine, lavender, and rose.

He makes that argument to Dorothy, but really he isn't worried about how she will react to not having the money. He is frantically trying hang onto his dreams of the Kingship fortune. Without all that money, Dorothy is just a nice girl.

This is where the sociopath segment of the book takes off. The decisions he makes to fix this issue are, frankly, ruthless. He isn't worried about the morality of it, but he is worried about getting caught and facing punishment.

This is bad; this is very bad, but the moment when my stomach does a few unnatural flip flops is when it occurs to him that it is going to be easier to seduce another Kingship daughter than it is to start all over researching and romancing another debutante.

Next up, Ellen.

And if Ellen doesn't work out, there is always Marion.


There was also a 1991 film version of the book, starring Sean Young and Matt Dillon, that I have not seen but from what I read deviates significantly away from the original plot.

Ira Levin does such a wonderful job creating so much unease in the reader. The tension continues to grow with each turned page, and I found myself rooting against this guy, but at the same time, I was still fascinated to see what he was going to do next. Will he be stopped And at what point will he make that fatal error It was no surprise to me to discover that Levin won the 1954 Edgar Award for best first novel. He was twenty-four years old when he wrote this book, but his youth is never evident in the plotting or in the character development. It reads like a writer working in his prime.

I want to share this moment when the criminal mind is accessing the books owned by one of his potential victims and what those books say about her: "...and the books, for what better index of the personality is there---(the novels and plays, the non-fiction and verse, all chosen in proportion and representation of her tastes). It was like the concentrated abbreviation of a Help Wanted ad. The egocentricity which motivated it was not that of the spoiled, but of the too little spoiled; the lonely."

Hey buddy, I don't know what you'd make of my library, expect that maybe I needed to see a shrink, but I can tell you this reader is never lonely as long as I have a book close to hand.

Highly recommended for those who like their books hardboiled in salt and vinegar.

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A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews and an Edgar Award, it also set a new standard in the art of psychological suspense. 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, 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.

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