I'm generally not a fan of unreliable narrators, but James Cain impressed me with this one!
The story is told from the standpoint of Joan Medford, who is the widow of a prominent man who has ruined his fortune and manages to kill himself in a car accident due to intoxication. However, that's way we see it from Joan's standpoint, however, her sister in law, Ethel has other ideas.
Since Joan's husband has basically left her and their son to live in squalor, Joan finds a job as a cocktail waitress at a nearby bar. After establishing herself and gaining a few regulars, she meets Tom Barclay and Earl K. White III, who change her life forever.
She manipulates herself into their lives but wants different things from each of the men. She lusts and drives for Tom, but settles and ends up marrying Earl because he's able to give her security and sustainability, something that Tom is not able to give her at her current situation.
At first, I felt sorry for Joan and her struggles to keep the lights and phone on in her house. As the story goes, my view changed and felt that Joan had turned into a monster and second guess everything she has told me from the beginning. Cain did an excellent job of interweaving sexual tension between Joan and Tom and Joan and Earl. I don't want to give away the ending but it's bittersweet, but Joan gets more than she bargained for, in true noir fashion.