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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Sinful Woman

cover image By: Cain, James M. (male)
Publisher: Avon Publishing Co., Inc. (599)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 212: PS3505 .A3113 S56 1954
Contributor: S.A. Butwell


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: James M. Cain Geographic Locale: Reno, Nevada Date of Publication: 1954  |  Original Date: 1947 Setting: urban; gambling casino, western town Motives: suspicion, greed, mental illness, family loyalty, suspected insurance fraud

Plot Summary

Hollywood starlet Sylvia Shoreham brings love and trouble to the sheriff of Reno, Nevada, Parker Lucas. Shady movie moguls and nightclub owners try to hide the truth behind the death of Sylvia's husband, Baron Victor Adlerkreutz, who was in Reno to divorce Sylvia and marry her look-alike, manic-depressive sister Hazel when he turns up dead. Meanwhile, suspicious insurance investigators try to prove it wasn't an accident in an attempt to avoid paying a hundred thousand dollars on the insurance policy. What appears to be a crime of passion soon involves Sylvia's sister, a conniving Hollywood producer, a forger, and the local sheriff who soon finds himself in love with the beautiful Sylvia -- the same woman he may have to arrest for murder.

Major Characters

Parker Lucas adult male, light blue eyes, six feet, two and a half inches tall, sheriff

Baron Victor Alexis Olaf Herman Adlerkreutz "Vicki", adult male, Lithuanian, large body, small hands and feet, black eyes, Hollywood movie mogul

Sylvia Shoreham adult female, beautiful, blonde hair, slender, voluptuous, actress

Hazel Shoreham adult female, blonde, slender

Ethel adult female, pretty, trim, bright black eyes, round chubby face, casino employee/blackjack dealer

George Layton adult male, small body, red hair, freckles, investigator

Tony Rico adult male, Italian, thick body, rocky face, nightclub owner

Dimitri Spiro "Dimmy", adult male, Hungarian/Lithuanian, short, bald, fat, pale, movie producer

Benny the Nib adult male, small, thin, freckled, blonde hair, shifty lash-less eyes, forger, screenwriter

Gerland La Bouche adult male, tall, lithe, sun-burned, delicate features, luminous eyes, movie production manager


gun, fists

Level of Violence

a gun is used as a threat, then goes off accidentally, killing a man. The incident is described in the third person by another character. A woman punches her husband in the jaw; it is described factually. Characters discuss a car that has gone over a cliff, killing a woman; it is described un-explicitly. A man purposely sets fire to a casino. No one is hurt, and some damage is done.


when sex is mentioned at all, it is heterosexual in nature. Some promiscuity is mentioned. No sexual contact actually takes place in the novel, but the sexual tension between some characters is described. Female characters are described in a sexual manner.

Gender Roles

all male and female characters are traditional in their gender roles. The plot revolves around the use of a beautiful woman to make money for her husband and his colleagues. She is forced to dress provocatively against her wishes, and to act in movies which exploit her sexuality. The sheriff, the "good guy," acts on her behalf only because he is sexually attracted to her.


one racial slur was located in the novel: an Italian man is called a "wop" by another character

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

some light drinking. Excessive alcohol and drug use are alluded to, but don't actually take place in the novel.

Law Enforcement

the plot involves a sheriff, who solves the mystery, and some deputies. The sheriff is comical in appearance, dressed as a cowboy, but is revealed as being quick-thinking, aware that he is being duped, and eventually using the greed of others to his advantage.

Added Features

gambling is very evident throughout the novel, which mostly takes place in a casino. Large sums of money are won and lost, although most of this activity is described in the third person, after it occurs. There is a brief mention of Hitler having caused a main character to lose his family fortune and ancestral lands, before he moved to the United States, but no other mention of World War II.

Subject Headings

Nevada - Reno/ Murder/ Actresses/ Gambling/ Mental Illness/ Motion Picture Producers and Directors

Psychological Elements

the mood is one of seediness and deception, with much irrational and inexplicable behavior. One character is manic-depressive, and much of the action takes place to protect her from harm, or use her instability for advantage. One character is constantly deceptive because of her instinct to protect her sister. Greed is the central motivator for most of the characters.