iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #18: A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin

Cannonball 18


The early chapters of Ira Levin’s debut crime novel crackle and hum with the intensity of the best of James M. Cain’s work. With an economy of words and a genius for getting right to the damn point, Levin gets us right into the sick, twisted mind of a sociopath. Unfortunately, this is a premise which strains under the length requirements of even a short novel, and while Levin continually displays a penchant for psychological tension, the propulsive thrust of those early chapters is never matched.

Dorothy Kingship is a college girl with a rich father and an unexpected pregnancy. To Dorrie, who perhaps is a little immature, this just means that she and her boyfriend will have to get married and struggle to make it without her father’s money, but this is unacceptable to her boyfriend. After trying unsuccessfully to get Dorrie to have the pregnancy “taken care of”, he decides to take care of Dorrie, pushing her off the tallest building in town and making it look like a suicide.

To describe more of the plot would give too much away, but Dorrie’s boyfriend doesn’t stop there, and his callous inhumanity will shock all but the most desensitized readers. Levin convincingly portrays the mind of a striver who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even as he struggles to create realistic non-psychotic characters to build a story around.

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