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.
Like most Femmes Fatales, Laura Hunt is beautiful, elegant, utterly ambitious and mysterious. Her charm makes it difficult for men to resist her, including the detective suspecting her of murder.
Laura is a brilliant mystery both in its plot and structure. Each of the men in love with Laura is a narrator in the novel. There’s Laura’s fiancé, who is unfaithful to her even on the eve of their wedding, her jealous friend Waldo who drives her lovers away and the hard-boiled detective who can’t resist her charms.
In this passage, where Laura thinks of Shelby, the man she is supposed to marry, writer Vera Caspary shows not only literary talent but sharp insight into Laura’s psyche.