The Husband


Unlike many femme fatale, Jean McVeigh is neither beautiful, nor curvy. She was too thin, sallow flesh, too pale in tone for her untinted brown hair covered her jutting bones sparsely. No artifice enhanced her womanhood but this, in a certain way, gave her class.

Jean McVeigh does, however, have what most femmes fatales want: money. She comes from a family of wealthy people on both her father and mother’s side. And like most femmes fatales she is lonely.

In  a hotel bar in London, she meets Stuart Howell, a dashing, young man with a series of failed investments and in love with Valerie a girl he desperately wants. (We know where this is going, don’t we?)

Her (McVeigh’s)  preoccupation with him was out of all proportion to the circumstances, or to sanity. She told this to herself over and over but failed to weaken her intense longing for another meeting. Jean was at a bad point of her life, the end of one phase and the beginning of nothing.

Isn’t this great writing? Oh, but wait…there’s more.

This is after a balcony scene in their hotel where Stuart falls from the balcony and is in hospital bed.

Jean was tempted to pull away, escape the hypocritical arms, at the same time she wanted to stay within the warm circle of refuge. Behind him she saw the lilies, the iris, the beautiful dark grapes. Mrs. Howell had ordered the best and costliest care for her husband but had sent nothing personal, no flowers, fruit, books or cheerful messages. Too selfish, too absorbed in fear, completely possessed by suspicion, she had failed in kindness.

Untrue to rebellious pride she had accepted a man whose life was dedicated to all she had rejected, the importance and accumulation of tangible wealth. Not so much for companionship, nor for solace, not even for her yearning body’s sake, but to show off her womanhood by the possession of a husband.

 Vera Caspary claimed she was not a “real” mystery writer, her novels effectively merged women’s quest for identity and love with murder plots. Independence is the key to her protagonists, with her novels revolving around women who are menaced, but who turn out to be neither victimized nor rescued damsels.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_Caspary

This was certainly the case with Jean McVeigh.


  1. excellent article, comme d’habitude… ❤ Caspary sounds Hungarian, but she's American! 🙂
    * * *
    @"FEMME FATAL" – with due respect, there's a missin' "e" @ "fatal"(masculine!)… 🙂


  2. Another interesting author and character, Carol! Do you think there is a reason that this genre seems to be from years past? Has something changed with the way women are perceived to cause that effect.


    • Interesting question. The femme fatale in American literature was made popular in the forties and fifties and most novels cited are by men but there were great women writers of that time who also included the femme fatale in their novels. My interest right now is to give place to these women writers that I think have been overshadowed by their male counterparts.

      There’s a good historical description of the femme fatale here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femme_fatale
      and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AFemme_fatale

      I also think there is room for the femme fatale in modern literature. I’d love to write a novel with such a character as protagonist.

      I’m not sure about something changing. There will always be people (male and female) who are hungry for power and money and willing to use others for their own benefit. What often happens with the femme fatale in literature is that her victim is also a not so nice person…
      Thanks for your comment, Diahann. 🙂


      • You make a good point. Still, if we compare the number of women writers to men writers, men dominate. Look at this statistic:
        In the UK, the LRB reviewed 68 books by women and 195 by men in 2010, with men taking up 74% of the attention, and 78% of the reviews written by men. Seventy-five per cent of the books reviewed in the TLS were written by men (1,036 compared to 330) with 72% of its reviewers men.

        The same goes for the US.

        This is quite astounding considering that the majority of readers are women.


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