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Ira Levin may be best known for his seminal horror novel Rosemary’s Baby, but his 1953 debut remains his most suspenseful offering and the greatest testament to his skill for eliciting thrills. The novel’s protagonist, Burton “Bud” Corliss, as calculating as he is ambitious, seeks to move up in the world by dating Dorothy, a young heiress with a father in the lucrative copper business. After Dorothy’s unplanned pregnancy puts a kink in Bud’s grandiose plans for the future, he resorts to sinister measures, murdering Dorothy and their unborn child before dating her other two sisters in a coldblooded and relentless pursuit of the life he wants. The book, now widely regarded as a modern crime classic, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1954 and inspired not one, but two film adaptations, in 1956 and 1991. —Cady Lang

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