Boekverslag : Ira Levin - A Kiss Before Dying
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A kiss before dying


Ira Levin

About the writer (in dutch)

Levin, Ira (New York 27 aug. 1929), Amerikaans schrijver van korte verhalen, romans, toneelstukken en songteksten, debuteerde met de uiterst spannende roman A kiss before dying (1953) en verwierf wereldnaam met de in 1968 door Roman Polanski verfilmde griezelroman Rosemary's baby (1967). Hij beschikt over een knappe verteltechniek.

WERK: (behalve de genoemde):

This perfect day (1970);

The Stepford wives (1972)

The boys from Brazil (1976)

Deathtrap (1978; toneel).

Main characters

Burton(Bud) Corliss, The murderer.

The three sisters, Dorothy (Dorrie), Ellen and Marion KIngship. (the first and second are murdered)

Leo Kingship, He's Dorothy's father, Ellen and Marion and he happens to be very rich. He's the owner of a rich company called: Kingship Copper Incorporation.

Dwight Powell, He's a student at Stoddard University and he was Ellens' second suspect, later in the story he convinces Ellen of his sincerity and after that, he was murdered by Bud Corliss.

Gorden Gant, He was the one who got on well with Ellen and after her death, he wants to find out who killed her. Eventually he finds evidence against Bud and proves to Leo and Marion, Bud Corliss is Dorothy's and Ellens' killer.

The characers I liked best

Ellen Kingship and Gordon Gant were appealing persons to me. If the people in the book really existed, I think those two would suit me best.

They are both hustlers, I like that. It appears like everybody else in the story needs evidence before they can be satisfied, then again others can't look beyond their noses. Ellen and Gordon rely on their instincts. They couldn't just make for the facts.The only bad idiosyncrasy of Ellen , according to me, is her credulity. She also acts in a very thoughtless way and that's why Bud Corliss finally gets his hands on her and succeeds to kill her.


The story begins in 1949 and end in December 1951.


The scene is laid in various places in the United States. Some of them were Menasset in Massachusetts, New-York, Caldwell, Stoddard etc.


The book is divided into three parts, called: Dorothy, Ellen and Marion. At the beginning the story is written from the murderers sight, Ira lets you know what he thinks and how he feels about the situation, but his name isn't mentioned untill Dwight Powell reads the letter Ellen wrote to her boyfriend Bud Corliss. Further on in the story the author also lets you know the thoughts of the other key-characters, like Ellen and Dorothy. Bud Corliss is a young man who comes from a poor family. In spite of the lack of money, Bud always achieved very good. Because his father was a looser, Bud's mother placed all her hopes on her son.

Bud wants his mother to be proud of him and the best and easiest way to get there is marrying a rich girl. He meets Dorothy at the University, everything seems to work out, but then she gets pregnant and that means no money. He has to find a way to get rid of her. He puts a well-considered plan together and murders her. He made it look like suicide and everybody fell into his trap, exept Ellen and Gordon Gant.

Ellen is playing detective to expose the killer. At first she thinks Gordon Gant is Dorothy's murderer, but later it appears he is not , Gordon and Ellen become good friends. Ellen goes on with her investigation and she informs him and her boyfriend Burton Corliss (the killer!) all the progress she has made. When Bud begins to smell a rat, he kills Ellen too. This time he didn't try to obscure the murder, but took care of covering up his tracks so nobody finds out it was he.

Now there was one left to go, he had to be very careful. He couldn't afford anything to go wrong this time. He wrote everything down he knew about Marion on a piece of paper and learned it by heart, he'd get in touch with her by starting a conversation about one of these things. Soon, she was totally wrapped up by his gentle and cultivated manners. She felt so very happy because someone loved her and paid attention to her for the first time in her life. Bud and Marion are planning to get married. Meanwhile, Gordon got suspicious and decided to investigate the whole case. He found the Buds' notes and bit by bit he began to understand what his real intensions were. He tried to convince Leo Kingship(her father) and at last Leo believes him. In view of the fact that Bud was planning to marry Marion for the money (and that nothing would keep him from killing her), they thought it would be necessary to tell Marion. After she'd seen the notes, she began to cry.

The next day Bud and his mother were invited to come and look after the huge factory's of Mr. Kingship. His mother refuses to go with them, because she's afraid of plains, so Bud is coming alone. Bud is very enthusiastic about it, especially because this is gonna be his inheritance. By using a dodge, Leo asks Marion to go outside.(she looks pale) Gordon, Leo and Bud stay behind. Bud still didn't get wind of the dangerous situation where he was in now. Leo and Gordon faced him while, they were standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking the way back. Leo asked him how he got Dorothy to write that suicide note, and a few other questions about the murders. Bud denies everything, but at last he admits he was reponsible for the note. Leo and Gordon only wanted him to confess, by keeping him under pressure. But Bud jumped into the depth and met his death. He got what he deserved...


"A Kiss Before Dying" seems to me a story with many elements involved. The cover says it's a thriller, but there are also a lot of detective-scenes. And you could consider it as a psychological drama as well, because the trains of thought and the feelings of the principal persons are discribed.


The author sure knows how to keep things exiting! She always ends the chapter with a thrilling moment, which made me want to go on reading. I almost couldn't put the book aside, I utilized every spare hour. Her style of writing pleased me very well, it never drops off. I experienced this book as form of acting, in writing. The characters in the story are individually exposed from the inside, in a seamless performance from one perspective to the other. Perhaps this is the secret of this books' vividness. I detected only one small thing where I was beginning to feel bored about; In the part called "Marion", we caught sight of the inside of the factory of Mr. Kingship, by looking through Buds' eyes. But in my view she was endlessly persuading about it, I got tired of it. I cannot say this book was hard for me to read, I think this is the suitable level of difficulty. All in all I'm very glad I've read this book. The other books she wrote as well, have aroused my curiosity, and before long, one of them will be standing in my bookcase.
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