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.
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.