Femme Fatale: Bedelia

Bedelia is a sexy, sensitive, emotional fragile female who is good at playing the role of the  submissive, doting, perfect housewife in need of protection by a strong man.

Husband beware. There is another side to this attractive damsel in distress.

As her mask slowly slips away, Bedelia is revealed not only as a pathological liar but as a woman who  has learned to manipulate men’s expectations of women with deadly efficiency. Bedelia is a complex killer protagonist; instead of driving men to crime and destruction, Bedelia is a hard-boiled murderer herself… (Afterword in Bedelia,  p. 204).

Although Bedelia’s bank account increased with each of her husband’s supposedly natural deaths, Caspary is more interested in commenting on the few ways that women at that time (the novel was set in 1913 although Caspary wrote it in 1943) had of getting ahead.

As a serial bride Bedelia seeks again and again the thrill of seduction, of being chosen, of exercising the power granted to females. (Afterword of Bedelia,  p. 205)

To Bedelia each marriage was a pleasure cruise and she an amiable passenger, always amused and amusing, always happy to share the fun, uninhibited by fear that any relationship would grow too important, because she knew the cruise would soon be over, the relationship severed, and she would be free to embark on a new journey.  (Bedelia,  p. 183.)


Margaret Lockwood played Bedelia in the 1946  British B noir film which examined the female serial killer. The story is a study of the psychology of evil and how pre-conceived notions of female behaviour contribute to the destruction of Bedelia’s male victims.


Caspary’s crime novels often portray women who marry for financial security but with disastrous results. Caspary ended her autobiography by saying: Those who come after us may find it easier to assert independence, but will miss the grand adventure of having been born a woman in this country of change (1979, 281)

For more posts on Vera Caspary’s femme fatales see Laura and Jean McVeigh 

28 thoughts on “Femme Fatale: Bedelia

  1. This is fascinating. Other than the murder, I can’t help but think of my own mother reading this. I am definitely going to have a look at this book and Caspary’s other writings. It makes one think how the author comes up with these types of stories. Great post Carol! 🙂


    • Thanks, Debby,

      Caspary was really ahead of her time (1940’s) as well as a very successful writer.It’s amazing how her novels, even after all these years, are still being reprinted.
      I preferred her novel Laura but this novel, nonetheless, was also very good. Not a thriller but a psychological analysis of a woman with few options open to her.
      Have a great Saturday. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I enjoy psychological thrillers so I look forward to reading this book at some point. Ahead of her time perhaps, but still an age old trick—manipulation, lol. Happy weekend to you too. 🙂


  2. I am familiar with the film LAURA but had no knowledge of the author behind that book and this one. It sounds like a terrific read. Caspary’s character is definitely one men should stay away from!
    I see LAURA and a few of her other novels are available on Amazon. Definitely, will start with LAURA.


    • John, you’re right about men staying away from women like Bedelia. However, Bedelia did choose very week men to manipulate. Still!!!
      If you do order any of Caspary’s books try to get the First Feminist Press Edition because it includes interesting forewords and afterwords.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I gratefully appreciate it. 🙂


    • It is rare, as hilarycustancegreen commented. Margot Kinberg recently wrote a short story portraying a female predator. We tend not to think of women as such evil creatures. Luckily, they exist mostly in fiction.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Rebecca.


  3. Are there many solo female serial killers? It’s not my field, but I can only think of two in the UK, both of whom were sidekicks to their men. There’s always the Borgia’s and an empress here or there; still I’m struggling.


  4. Wow! Another great femme fatale. I never heard of either the book or the movie, and now I have to check them both out … Vera Caspary really did write more than Laura. Love Margaret Lockwood.
    BTW in the film version of Laura she doesn’t strike me as all that fatale or malevolent, more really a victim, or at least the manipulated rather than the manipulator. Just my two cents’.


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