‘A Kiss Before Dying’, I. Levin

I can remember reading ‘The Boys from Brazil’ sometime last year. I never thought much else of Ira Levin although I really enjoyed that book. Yesterday, it was time to choose another one, and for some reason my pick fell on ‘A Kiss Before Dying’. The author, again, Ira Levin.

I enjoyed his previous book I read very much—indeed, so much that I had to wonder why I had not written a word on it last year when I finished the title. I wish I knew… However, I definitely wanted to offer a few thoughts on this one.

Ira Levin’s quality, compared to other thriller writers (such as John Grisham), seems to be very good at making us think twice of who we want to come out on top in this particular engagement. Admittedly, I have only read two or three of Mr Grisham’s books, but in those I always rooted for the ‘victim’. I wanted them to escape, and them to ‘win’. With Mr Levin, this simple question is more complex.

The character of the detective in ‘The Boys from Brazil’ was so evil and repulsive and autocratic in itself I did not want him to win. The victims in ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ speak to me on a personal level, however. I wanted them to not die. It was not fair they perished while the murderer lived. Plus, some of the plot twists that came up, I could not have predicted them despite all the books I have read.

The murders in ‘The Boys from Brazil’ did not happen because of personal gain or evil motives.  The murders in ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ happened exactly because of that. Maybe that makes all the difference. I am unsure. All that I know is that it is Mr Levin who made it appear so. Maybe I should feel it for the detective who tries to impose his own black-and-white on the world, and maybe I should feel it for the impoverished man who wants money. I don’t really know.

What made me most sympathetic to the cause of the people in this book was that halfway through the second part, I realised that I did not know who the killer was. The writer had played it well. I immediately appreciated the book that much more. Much like yesterday when I mentioned the importance of characters whose name is not mentioned by the writer, the second part in this work used a similar device. It was something different from the usual and for that it truly deserved my gratitude. There are too many ‘usual’ books.

As the Introduction to the edition I read said, it “It’s not fair.” The culprit in this book might have been that for the reason that the same Introduction postulates, “He hates women.” I really can’t say. The book might make one think different. All that I know is that I have a few friends who would enjoy this book, and that I thought of a few for whom this book might be a good gift. The lines flew by, and their tone made them that much more important.

As it is, I can predict what is to happen in some of the scenes and yet I cannot believe Mr Levin goes on with it. The foreword echoes these thoughts. Or maybe it precedes them. It was written beforehand, after all, even if I did not read it. But that’s that. For now, pick up a book by Ira Levin. Read that book. Think of that book.

‘The Client’, J. Grisham

‘The Client’ turned out to be the second book by Mr Grisham that I took up, and I don’t think I regret the choice. There is so much going on in this book it is slightly difficult to follow months after reading it, but one thing I do know: I enjoyed the read and I will probably go through it again. I will be better able to evaluate the nuances present in the book after I do, I would think. But even before that, I can say a thing or two about the novel.

Firstly, I liked it. I enjoyed the premise of a small boy in trouble, and a lawyer being one of the few people who could help him. I enjoyed the child’s struggle to find a suitable lawyer for himself — plus, how/why end up with Reggie Love of all people? I took it to be a sign of how people allow themselves to be approached which I guess is also how Mr Grisham meant it to be taken. The fancy suited lawyer that was all around a crash victim didn’t want anything to do with a child, for the simple reason that he was a child. Ms Love took the time to listen and to see what the story was about, and that is to be appreciated. There should be more people like that about.

Secondly, I enjoyed the book. Mind Mark Sway, he does get a bit annoying and flippant at times, but then again he is a young person with a variety of interests, and getting killed doesn’t really feature within those interests. I can’t fault him for that. What I can fault him for is taking a very long time to make up his mind, but he was in a bit of a tight spot. It’s rather difficult to root for the lawyer and the client while not rooting for the law or the criminals — and, yet, this is what ‘The Client’ made me do. The Feds weren’t my favourite people here, and the criminal syndicate was outright silly (believably silly, that is, but in the way that I did not want them to succeed). I was left with the young Mark and Reggie Love, and I didn’t really mind that.

In the end, this is a story of making up one’s mind. But how can that be done if there’s so much going on all the time? What are the acceptable threats that one should face? What are the threats one should allow family to face?

I guess that picking up the book is a start in figuring those out.

‘The Broker’, J. Grisham

One of the first books I read this year was John Grisham’s ‘The Broker’. I obtained this book almost accidentally when I noticed Grisham’s novels in a second-hand stall on the market and I decided to try one of them out. ‘The Broker’ turned out to be the one I picked up from that range because I thought that the theme was interesting. And, it was.

It might not be the best book to start reading Grisham but then again that is a very dubious claim to make of any book in any case. The pacing and overall style of writing was something that I enjoyed, and I do believe that I’ll take a further look into Grisham as and when I can.

Overall, ‘The Broker’ brought Italy to me by placing the characters there and I very much liked that. The descriptions of places were detailed (Bologna) and the author looked as if he knew what he was writing about.

Maybe I am not entirely happy with the ending although I did end up rooting for the main character and not one of the intelligence agencies. With the story very much action driven, I am somewhat impressed by there being as much descriptions as there was dialogue (roughly, obviously) since some authors manage to go very far with one of these while ignoring the other.

But, yes, to conclude: I enjoyed the book and while it does not have a massive reread value, I would keep it in mind if I felt like “Italy” one day.