A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion deftly chronicles a famous real-world instance of such a story of manipulation and murder.
Dateline: New York City, 1925. Voluptuous Ruth Snyder, secure in her sex appeal and her ability to manipulate men, begins a torrid affair with brassiere or corset salesman Judd Gray. Both are unhappily married — Ruth because she's abused, Judd because he's bored. Over the course of several alcohol-soaked rendezvous (Hansen makes clear how easy it was to get around Prohibition) and trysts at the Waldorf-Astoria, Ruth slowly breaks down Judd's moral defenses, convincing him that he really has no other choice but to help her kill her husband.
The last section of the novel, to me, was the most fascinating, as Hansen departs a little from the fiction of Ruth and Judd's relationship, and carefully recounts (from newspaper accounts and other primary sources) the trial and the publicity circus around it. Think OJ Trial of the '20s. And if you've read Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (which Hansen mentions in Guilty Passion), you're familiar with how well this narrative structure can work. It reads like non-fiction, and it's absolutely riveting.
I'd highly recommend this slim novel, especially if you're not familiar with Ron Hansen, who is a vastly underrated novelist. This novel's a perfect example of what he does best — turning a footnote of history into a rich, elegant novel. My biggest complaint about this book is the cover — which earned me more than one dirty looks whilst reading in public. But A+ for the novel itself!