Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Kiss Before DyingA Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ira Levin's "A Kiss Before Dying" is a classic, one of the most acclaimed novels in the suspense/thriller genre. Published in 1953, it does not feel 60 years old; its plot could as well be happening in 1970s.

The protagonist (the bad guy, let's not mention his name to avoid spoilers) is a handsome young man, adored by women. He is a ruthless manipulator, who will do absolutely anything to further his goal of becoming rich and powerful. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Dorothy gets pregnant, which may ruin his plans. Not to worry, though - the bad guy knows that Dorothy's suicide would solve the problem. That's how the masterfully woven plot begins.

The deliberate pacing of the scenes preceding the Bad Deed is delightfully suspenseful, so much better than the breakneck tempo of today's idiotic thrillers. The first half of the plot is enthralling and its logic is unassailable. Not being able to stop reading long into the night, I was ready to claim that "A Kiss Before Dying" is the best suspense novel that I had ever read. Alas, the plot begins losing its sharp focus somewhere about the 60% mark. The author's high-wire act of plot construction proves to be unsustainable. Too much of a good thing, perhaps.

The deliciously vicious ending redeems the novel from temporary weaknesses of the plot. Also, the last sentence of the book is something special. All in all, this novel, while completely depth-free, is highly entertaining.

Three and a half stars.

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