Friday, August 26, 2011


This 1950s thriller opens with a college couple's conversation about their unwanted pregnancy. Her name is Dorrie; his is not revealed until much later in the novel. Dorrie has a wealthy father who will surely disown her if she marries her lover and has his baby. Her lover feels that abortion is the only answer, since, really, what's the point of marrying a rich girl if her funds are cut off? In his mind, though, there is at least one other solution: kill the girl, make it look like a suicide, and move on. This scenario reminded me somewhat of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Anyway, the manner in which our anti-hero elicits a suicide note from Dorrie is clever indeed, and he still has a few more tricks up his sleeve. So does the author. The most intriguing section in the book is when Dorrie's sister Ellen, never convinced that Dorrie's death was a suicide, starts digging into Dorrie's demise. She has just enough to go on to narrow her murder suspects down to two. Since we still don't know his name at this point, we fear for her safety as she pursues these two strangers. There are some very tense moments, and we discover his identity at the same moment that she does. He's a twisted sociopath, emboldened by his horrifying success, who will now stop at nothing to achieve the social and financial status that he craves. The dialog and quandaries may be dated, but the suspense that Levin generates has not gone out of style.

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