Columns > Published on February 12th, 2016

Wanted: 8 of Literature's Most Dangerous Couples

To quote Stephen King in The Drawing of the Three: “This is what romance gets you—a noose around your neck and a crazy woman with two guns somewhere behind you.” How “dangerous” something is depends on your point of view, but these characters generally fit the bill if you're a law-abiding human being with a sliver of common sense.

The Thenardiers, 'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo

The Thénardiers are not pleasant people. As partial antagonists of Hugo's famous work, they're liars, cheaters, and thieves. Some adaptations of the musical present them in a more comedic light, but by the end of the tale they're never particularly sympathetic. It's the high demands of the Thénardiers that eventually force single mother Fantine into a life of prostitution in order to pay for the care of her daughter.

[amazon 978-0143107569]


2. Harley Quinn and  The Joker, 'Batman: Harley Quinn'

Particularly with the upcoming film adaptation of Suicide Squad, it seemed necessary to include Harley Quinn and her demented boyfriend, the Joker. This collection includes plenty of their banter as the two alternate between trying to kill each other and everyone else.

[amazon 978-1401255176]


Doc and Carol McCoy, 'The Getaway' by Jim Thompson

Noir fiction is brimming over with couples who aren't to be crossed. The Getaway is about what happens when the smallest details go amiss in the perpetration of a crime. Doc McCoy is a brilliant criminal, and his wife Carol is a willing but sometimes uncertain accomplice. In Film Noir Reader, edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini, her participation is characterized as follows: “Carol winces when she shoots people, but she does shoot them.” After Dark, My Sweet is another title of Thompson's that features a troubled duo.

[amazon 9780316403979]


4. Blanche and Buck Barrow, 'My Life With Bonnie and Clyde' by Blanche Caldwell Barrow

Blanche Caldwell Barrow was the only member of the Bonnie and Clyde gang who survived long enough to write an account of her exploits, and her memoir is the only non-fiction book on this list. The same confrontation that killed Bonnie and Clyde also landed Blanche in jail for ten years. While Blanche and Buck Barrow aren't the household names that Bonnie and Clyde are, it was their romantic relationship that lead Blanche into the criminal underground. After escaping an arranged marriage planned by her mother, she met Clyde Barrow's brother Buck, a petty crook, and the rest was history.

[amazon 978-0806137155]


5. Catherine Land and Ralph Truitt, 'A Reliable Wife' by Robert Goolrick

Set in the stark winter landscape of Wisconsin in 1909, A Reliable Wife is the tale of Catherine Land, a woman who answers an advertisement written by a wealthy businessman in search of “a reliable wife.” Land comes bearing poison instead of love, but nothing in their relationship is as it immediately seems. Full of Gothic lyricism and twisted moral dilemmas.

[amazon 978-1565129771]


6. Lord and Lady Macbeth, 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare

The classic dangerous couple, Lord and Lady Macbeth might seem an obvious choice, but I couldn't leave them off the list. If you're looking for a romantic activity this Valentine's Day, why not try seizing a throne through mystical predictions, murder, and warfare? 

[amazon 978-0743477109]


7. 12 year old girl and Miles Giffard, 'Monsters' by Emerald Fennell

Two adolescents find the murder of a young woman in their seaside town to be “delightful” and begin reenacting the crime in their childhood games. A fairly new and extraordinarily creepy-sounding title from the UK, this pair of youngsters might be merely a little macabre and misunderstood, or they could be serial killers in the making. That's for the reader to discern.

[amazon 978-1471404627]


8. Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd, 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' by Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler, and Christopher Bond

Who could ever forget this wacky couple and their contagious love of baking? Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd are one of the most memorable pairs of criminals in theater history. After their first appearance in the 1846 penny dreadful The String of Pearls: A Romance, their characters have been resurrected on stage and in writing many times across the last century.  

[amazon 9781557830661]

Do you have any villainous plans for this Feb. 14? Let us know in the comments.

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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