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Characters

Victor “Vic” Van Allen

Victor Van Allen, the protagonist, is a fascinating but repulsive antihero. His jealousy over his wife’s infidelities spurs him to homicide. Unable to feel guilt, Vic tries to hide his feelings and focuses on a complex contest of wills with his wife, who is determined to expose him as a murderer. Although devoted to their daughter, Vic prioritizes punishing Melinda. Age thirty-six, Vic is somewhat short and pudgy and has intelligent blue eyes and short brown hair. Vic is the owner of a small publishing company named Greenspur Press. Vic spends long hours at the press and is very proud of its high-quality work and outstanding reputation. Along with growing herbs, his more unusual hobbies include raising bed bugs and snails.

Melinda Van Allen

Melinda Van Allen, who is about thirty years old, has long, dark-blond hair, green-brown eyes, and slightly freckled skin. So tall that she always wears flats, she has a firm body, “Amazonian strength,” and “animal vitality.” Vic likens his courtship of the rebellious young woman to taming a horse. Melinda is a heavy drinker, an inattentive mother to Trixie, and a careless homemaker; she is also resistant to Vic’s efforts to curtain her freedom. Fond of music and dancing, she scorns Vic’s hobbies and assertions of superior intellect. In her attitude towards other men, Melinda is not merely flirtatious; she thrives on men’s attention, and over the past three years, she has had multiple affairs. She becomes convinced that Vic killed two of her lovers.

Beatrice Van Allen

Beatrice Van Allen, called Trixie, is Victor and Melinda’s six-year-old daughter. She has her mother’s coloring and stubborn temperament but her father’s intellect. Victor both spoils and educates her, while Melinda pays her little attention. Trixie, who began reading at age three, enjoys Scrabble and is elated when her father gets her a puppy. She attends Highland School, where she sings in the choir. Vic worries that she has grown too accustomed to her mother’s boyfriends and their gifts.

The Mellers

Horace and Mary Meller, a married couple residing Little Wesley, are part of the Van Allens’ social circle. They stand by Vic as the rumors circulate. Horace repeatedly urges Vic, whom he considers his best friend, to take a firmer stance against Melinda’s behavior. A cautious, slightly built man, Horace works as a laboratory chemist. At parties, Mary Meller often drinks and flirts with Vic. Dismissing the rumors about his killing McRae, she defends Vic as sweet and “unmysterious.”

The Cowans

Phil and Evelyn Cowan, a married couple, are Little Wesley residents and friends of the Van Allens. Their house has a swimming pool. Phil is an economics professor who is writing a book, and they throw a party to celebrate his progress. Evelyn is an enthusiastic gardener.

The Wilsons

Don Wilson and his wife, June, are recent arrivals in Little Wesley who move to another town after just a few months because of Don’s unpopular allegations against Vic. Don writes novels, such as detective stories, while June writes children’s stories. After condemning Vic’s joke about the McRae murder, Don urges everyone to believe that Vic killed Charles De Lisle. June, a petite blonde, is embarrassed and apologetic about his theories.

Brian Ryder

Brian Ryder, an instructor at Bard College, comes to stay with the Van Allens to confer with Vic about Greenspur Press’s upcoming publication of his poems. The “pleasant, intense young man” with Tarzan-like physique admires Vic, but Melinda captivates him, and he writes her a poem.

The Hines

Stephen Hines is the printer at the Greenspur Press. He and his wife, Georgianne, are a happy couple with one son. In August, Georgianne gives birth prematurely to another boy. Vic is impressed with Stephen’s meticulous, painstaking work and considers him indispensable. 

Caryle

Caryle, a sixty-year-old recovering alcoholic, is the driver, mail handler, janitor, and handyman...

(The entire section is 1,241 words.)