A Kiss Before dying
Year it was written
Bud Corliss pretended to love his victims and then killed them. Love came from Dorothy and Ellen, death from Bud.
The story takes place in Amerika in the fifties. It is full of thrilling episodes which cause an effective build-up of suspense.
The struggle between good and bad. Good triumphs in the end.
Bud Corliss. A hard criminal who deceives and kills without any scruples in order to get what he wants. He is good at pretending and seems to win most people's trust. He is an exellent planner and improvisor. He feels that he is a genius, capable of the perfect crime. Only at the end Bud experiences fear, just like the Japanese soldier had felt it before being killes by Bud.
Dorothy Kingship. A faithful, loving, gullible firl. She wants to get married to Bud. She is sure that he loves her.
Ellen Kingship. An intelligent firl who, by careful deduction and combination, finds the clue to Dorothy's death. Unfortunately, she does not find out that her boyfriend and Dorothy's killer are one and the same person until it is too late.
Marion Kingship. Bud's third victim. She does not believe Gordon's story and she feels that her father is manipulating her with the help of 'private investigator' Gordon Gant. Once she is convinced of Bud's guilt, she wants to witness the 'excution'.
Gordon Gant. A reliable, stubborn young man who puts Mr Kingship on the right track to his daughter's killer. He is so devoted to reveal the truth that he loses his job as a disc-jockey.
Dwight Powell. Dorothy's ex-lover who feels responsible for her 'suicide'.
He is relieved to discover that he could not have been the father of her unborn baby. He is helpful to Ellen in her search for the murderer.
Bud's mother. She thinks the world of him an he tries to live up to her expectations. Leo Kingship. The rich factory owner who is bent on revenge. He has a strong feeling of what is right and what is wrong. He plans the trip to the smelter to settle his score with Bud. In doing so Leo, and not Bud, pland and commits the perfect crime.
Point of view
The story is told by someone who is not involves in the plot, in the third person past. Most of the plot is told in chronological order but in chapter tho there is the flash-back that serves to give some information about Bud Corliss (whose name is not yet known to the reader at that stage).
I liked the book very much, because you suspect someone else to be the murderer.
Type of novel
A thriller, or a novel of adventure.
The setting of this novel is America in the fifties. The main character, Bud is trying to carry out a plan to become rich by marrying one of the daughter of a rich factory owner. His plan fails with the first firl so he tries again with her two sisters.
Part One - Dorothy
Without realizing it, Dorothy Kingship (Dorrie) has ruined her boyfriend's evel plans by getting pregnant. The boy whose name is not yet mentiones, is bent on securing the money of Dorothy's father, Mr Leo Kingship, managing director of Kingship Copper Inc. Dorothy loves him and does not see through his designs. She wants to get married as soon as possible but her boyfriend knows that he might just as well forget about getting any money if they did so. He persuades her to take pills to bring about an abortion. She takes them but they do not work. He the decides to get rid of her and makes preparations to kill her with arsenic, but in such a way that people will believe it was suicide. They are both studying at Stoddard University and during classes he tricks her into writing a 'suicide note'. He gives her the arsenic caplules, telling her that they are abortion pills and better that the first ones. He says that she will be all right, apart from some slight discomfort. Later that night he persuades her to take the pills and to tell nobody about them. De posts the 'suicide note' to Dorothy's sister, Ellen. The next day, just when he is wondering about the enpuiry that will follow her death, Dorothy just walks into the class room. This gives him the shock of his life. She tells him that the pills did not work, but knows better. She did not take them, and he thinks she is a "dirty liar". He has got a problem on his hands now: Ellen will receive the note later that day and she will raise the alarm, so he calculates that he has some five hours left to dispose of Dorothy. He tells her that he thinks they should get married that afternoon. They go to the municipal building which houses the Marriege License Bureau. When they get there they are a bit early, just as he had lannes. He suggests that they admire the view from the roof of the Municipal building. Once they are there, he pushes her down a ventilation shaft. The police think is was suicide.
Part two - Ellen
Leo Kingship receives a letter from Annabelle Koch, the student who was the last known person to speak to Dorothy. She expresses her surprise at the fast that on the day of her dearh Dorothy came to her to borrow a belt, although she herself owned one exactly the same. In another letter, written to a Mr Bud Corliss, Dorothy's sister Ellen describes how she may have found the clue tot her sister's death by piecing together everything she knows about the case. She thinks tat Dorothy dad been on the point of marrying as, according to an old romantic tradition, she was wearing 'someting old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'. She ends the letter by saying that she is going to Stoddard University to find out who Dorothy's boyfriend - and murderer - was. At Stoddard Ellen and the Dean narrow the number of possible men down to two: only Gordon Gant and Dwight Powell seem to answer the vague description Dorothy had once given to Ellen. (he was in her English class during the fall semester, and that he was blond and hansome)
Ellen now wants to meet Gordon Gant whithout giving herself away. The first meeting is rather clumsy one(she says she is his cousin and that is has written him a letter that she'll bring him visit. When Gordon comes home he pretend he is her oncle). Later Gordon enters her hotelroom and he manages to read Ellen's letters to Bud Corliss. He now knows why she has come.
Ellen then decides to check out Dwight Powell. She takes him up to the roof of the Municipal building, hoping that he will betray himself. The reader is led to believe that Dwight has in fact killed Dorothy: he is nervous and starts sweating all over. But in the next chapter he proves to be innocent. He telles Ellen that he loved Dorothy but that she could not have been expecting his baby, because he had been in New York the whole of the previous spring. He does tell her, however that he felt responsible for her suicide. Ellen believes him. Dwight tells her that he has got the address of Dorothy's next boyfriend in one of his notebooks. They go to Dwight's place, where Bud who has overheard their conversations, was waiting for Dwight in a cupboard. When Dwight is looking for the notebook, Bud steps out of the cupboard, holding a gun. Dwight accuses him of killing Dorothy after which he is shot dead. Bud explains his presence in Dwight's home al follows: he had overheard them in the cocktail lounge, and, as he was sure Dwight would kill her, he went ahead to Dwighy's place to stop him. He also tells her that Dwight was looking for a gun and not for the notebook, and that when he jumped Dwight, the gun went off. Bud is anxious to leave Dwight's place as soon as possible. Ellen disagrees because she sees running away as a proof of guilt. Bud takes her to a lonely place in the country. He tells her how he killes Dorothy an then shoots her.
Part Three - Marion
The next thing Bud does is to contact Marion, the last surving Kingship daughter. He tells her that he was a friend of Ellen's and that he wants to return a book that he borrowed from her. A relationship develops between Bud and Marion. Gordon Gant visits Mr Kingship, who dislikes Bud. Gant tells him of his suspicions about Bud. He explains how Bud , after Dorothy's death, transferred from Stoddard University to Caldwell University, where Ellen was studying. He shows him pictures of Bud en Dorothy in the same yearbook. Gant wonders if Marion knows about Bud's period at Stoddard. If not, he thinks. Bud must have a good reason for not telling her . Mr Kingship an Gordon go to Marion to find out. She does not know anything about it but she accuses her father od "digging up dirt".
While Bud is staying with the Kingships, Gordon secretly travels to Bud's hometown to find some evidence in support of his theory. He staels Bud's strongbox, and evidence from it gradually convinces Mr Kingship that his daughters must have been killed by Bud. Marion, on the other hand is sure of Bud's love for her and wants to marry him, until Gordon confronts her with some notes from the strongbox (what her favourite music, books were). Finally the truth is coming to her.
Mr Kingship has his secretary find out about promotional literature that had been sent to Bud in the past. It appears that Bud requested this material twice: first when he was having an affair with Dorothy, later when he had started his adventure with Ellen.
In the last part the trip to the Kingship Copper plant is described. Bud, Mr Kingship, Marion and Mr Dettweiler, supposedly one of the directors' sons but in reality Gordon Gant, travel there by private plane. As the future son-in-law, Bud feels that he has finally made it: a private plane, lots of money and, best of all, beyond any suspicion. Why, after all, would Mr Kingship take the trouble of showing him round the plant if he had the smalles doubt about him? Bud grows more and more excited as he is shown around that "heart of American industry". To his surprise he finds that he has never been so interested in anything in his life as he is now.
High on a cat-walk over the path of the smelter basing Mr Kingship and Gordon suddenly start questioning Bud about the murders. He denies everything but he betrays himself by using the name 'Dorrie', a pet-name only used by people who knew Dorothy well. Then Bud tells them how he got the suicide note. He slips, falls off the cat-walk and ends up dangling from a cable over a vat of liquid copper. Finally he has to let go and, being watched by Marion, lands in the red-hot metal with a splutter.
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