Ira Levin was only twenty-three when his debut novel was published. A Kiss Before Dying is a crime thriller set in the 1950s and the characters are mainly college students. It’s a more surprising read than the blurb suggests. I enjoyed it, although not as much as Rosemary’s Baby and a lot more than This Perfect Day.
The story is about a handsome blonde man who has started college late after being in the Army. He’s from a disadvantaged background and decides he wants to be rich. He fixates on the heiress to a copper mining company, a fellow student. However, when she gets pregnant and the abortion pills he obtains don’t work, he does something villainous and seems to get away with it. Now that others are on his trail, this leads to more evil deeds. Will he be caught and dealt with before time runs out?
The narrative style was deceptively straightforward, with natural dialogue which I found appealing. There was a classic twist halfway through which I should’ve guessed but didn’t. I could see what was going to happen with the ending, but still, it was quite shocking.
I would definitely recommend this book for fans of crime fiction in which ordinary people are the detectives and for anyone looking for a 1950s read which isn’t too dated.
First published in 1954. This edition published in 2011 by Corsair with an introduction by Chelsea Cain.