A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

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A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: First published in 1954 to great acclaim and now regarded as a modern-day classic. Boy-girl-unwanted pregnancy is a familiar and much-used scenario but in Levin's hands the story is terrific and so is the suspense level.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Corsair
ISBN: 978-1849015912

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I haven't read any of Levin's books to date although I know various titles from television and films etc. And what struck me straight away was the terrific introduction by Chelsea Cain. Most intros can be rather dull and pedantic but this one is refreshingly different. It starts with the eye-catching line I could kill Ira Levin and left me eager, very eager to get on and read the book.

It opens with young and rather naive student Dorothy, or Dorrie as she's generally known. She's been dating a handsome fellow student for a little while - and now she's pregnant. It was an accident. Unplanned. Both are far too young to settle down to married life with a baby and besides they have the rest of their lives ahead of them, haven't they? So, it's plan B then.

And right from the beginning, there's a sense that the boyfriend is the dominant one in the relationship. He seems to lay down the law and Dorrie meekly falls into line. He also comes across as a schemer (and how as all is revealed later in the book) and also a bit sly. But Dorrie's blissfully in love and doesn't notice these negative traits. Throughout this lengthy and slightly heated (well, as heated as Dorrie allows herself to get) conversation about this surprise pregnancy and what action should be taken now, the boyfriend is extremely eager to placate Dorrie. Everything will be just fine, you leave everything to me ... The sad thing is, Dorrie obeys him. The start of the decline of Dorrie, you could say.

Levin's style and narrative are superb. He uses everyday words and everyday language but it's the way in which he constructs those sentences that drew me right in to the storyline.

For much of the first part of the novel, the boyfriend is not named. There's a very good reason for this which becomes crystal clear later on. And it's very clever indeed. To better understand this boyfriend we go back in time to his early days at school. And yes, it's relevant. It's not waffle or unnecessary padding. In this rather slim novel no word is wasted, every single one counts. This golden boyfriend of Dorrie's is an only child, was fussed over by his rather drab and uneducated mother and cottoned on very early that his good looks could do him a lot of favours. He wants to have a comfortable life and not work too hard to achieve it either. But, cross him at your peril. As he enrols at the same college as Dorrie, we see that it is part of his master plan. But will it work?

I knew from the very first page that I was going to enjoy this book. If I was going to be stranded on a desert island then this is the type of book I would probably take. Even although it was published back in the 1950s it's timeless. And good writing doesn't really go out of fashion either. This story could equally apply to the 21st century.

The slow, steady simmer of tension and suspense is first class. I could see it all played out in my mind's eye, such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books in this genre I've read recently. It's superb, it's stunning and it left me wanting more. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Stepford Wives also by Ira Levin.

Buy A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin at Amazon.com.


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