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A Kiss Before Dying Paperback – April, 2003

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Badlands: A Novel by C. J. Box
Badlands: A Novel by C. J. Box
Edgar Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box is back with a masterpiece of suspense set in a time and place that readers won't soon forget. Learn more | See related books

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Remarkably constructed...in episodes of chilling horror."

About the Author

Ira Levin is the author of The Boys from Brazil, Rosemary’s Baby, Son of Rosemary, The Stepford Wives, This Perfect Day, Sliver, and A Kiss Before Dying (for which he won the Edgar Award). Levin was also the recipient of three Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards. His website is iralevin.org.

Otto Penzler is the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He is the founder of the Mysterious Press and Otto Penzler Books, and has received an Edgar Award, an Ellery Queen Award, and a Raven Award for his contribution to the mystery field. His anthology The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps was a New York Times Bestseller. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786711647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786711642
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,945,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Ohioan on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
My mother bought a hardback copy of this book when it first came out in the late 1950s, and when I was in high school and looking for things to read, I found her copy in the attic and read it. I could not put it down: it was very suspenseful, very well-plotted, and I had No Idea! When I finished the book I was very impressed. About fifteen years later I decided for some reason or other that I wanted to read "A Kiss Before Dying" again, just to see if it was as good as I remembered it. Despite the fact that I now knew everything about the characters and plot, and had by this time seen the 1950s film based on the book (good flick, by the way), I still enjoyed the novel and was impressed with what Levin had accomplished.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Claude Avary on March 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Stephen King once commented about author Ira Levin: "Every novel he has ever written has been a marvel of plotting. He is the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel; he makes what the rest of us do look like those five-dollar watches you can buy in the discount drug stores." He went on to lament that Levin's most effective book (and his first!), "A Kiss before Dying," is not much read these days.
Here's your chance to fix this situation! "A Kiss before Dying" is now back in print, in a nice trade paperback, for the first time since the early 90s (when a mass-market paperback was briefly available to tie-in with the forgotten movie adaptation starring Sean Young and Matt Dillon). First published in 1953 when Levin was only twenty-three, "A Kiss before Dying" is one of the most remarkable suspense novels ever penned and a masterpiece of literary noir. The greatest suspense writer of all time, Cornell Woolrich, highly influenced Levin, and this book seems like an overt homage to many of Woolrich's devices. It's the only suspense novel I know of that honestly compares with the master.
To tell much about the plot would ruin the shocks and surprises awaiting you in these pages. Levin hurls out plot twists that genuinely jolt the reader and turn the whole story upside down in moments (King referred to one of the twists as "a real screeching bombsell" of a surprise). The story begins at a large college, where Dorothy Kingship, daughter of a wealthy industrialist, has learned that she is pregnant. Her boyfriend, a handsome, dashing, but callous, calculating, and completely amoral young man is unhappy with the news; he hoped to marry into the rich family as his quick ticket to success, and the uptight Leo Kingship will certainly disinherit his daughter when he finds out about the pregnancy.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Cunningham TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ira Levin's `A Kiss Before Dying' is a taught, suspenseful thriller about a self-absorbed sociopath intent on marrying into money. The novel is divided into three parts, each focusing on one of three heirs to the Kingship Copper fortune. The sociopath, who we meet on the first page, is beautifully drawn and impeccably believable as he plots and plans to marry youngest daughter, Dorothy Kingship, and then sees his hard work fall apart as things fly out of control. But you just can't keep a good sociopath down, and what won't work with one sister might work well enough with another.

The novel is written in Levin's signature detached prose, which works perfectly for this noir-influenced, Hitchcock-like story - we find ourselves inside the heads of multiple characters, providing motive and believability to a plotline that comes dangerously close to being a potboiler. There's plenty of suspense and tension, the characters are likable and identifiable, and the twist (yes, there's a twist) is actually surprising (at least for readers who haven't seen one of the film versions of the novel!). Best of all, everything comes together satisfactorily in the end - and endings are the most difficult for books like this one.

Highly recommended - the 1956 movie version (with Robert Wagner and Joanne Woodward) isn't bad, either; it's just not as good as the book. It was an easy read on Kindle - if you like it, try Levin's other novels (`This Perfect Day,' `Rosemary's Baby,' `The Stepford Wives,' or `Boys from Brazil').
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Gerald K. Osborne on June 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My first introduction to the author Ira Levin: A great 'can't put it down', 'stayed up until the wee hours' to finish it novel. I can't wait to read his other works! And of course, with my Kindle, I can go purchase a few of those books right now.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Linda Oskam on August 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
'A kiss before dying' was written in the fifties, and apart from some very non-essential aspects it is not dated at all. The book is about a young college student from a poor family who wants to marry a rich girl and for that he is prepared to do practically everything. Until she meets the wrong person, who starts digging... There are some very ingenious turns in the book, so telling more about the story would only give it all away. I can only say Read it! It is definitely worth your time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kiki Hyzak on December 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ira Levin's books are always page turners. But I found that this book in particular spoke to my inner "girl detective"-- I even identified with Ellen! I love the 1950's tenor of the setting, dialogue and throughout all aspects of the novel. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quick mystery read without the blood and guts of many other books.
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