Title: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Number of Pages: 307
How I Got It: She Reads February Selection
A wickedly entertaining novel that reconsructs one of America's most famous unsolved mysteries-Justice Joseph Crater's disappearance in 1930-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.
Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has Judge Crater to thank for her husbnd's recent promotion to detective for the NYPD. Meanwhile, Judge Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster; Owney "The Killer" Madden.
Then, on a sultry summer night, as rumors circulated about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, Judge Crater stepped into a cab and disappeared without a trace. Or did he?
After thirty-nine years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a corner booth at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked afairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella begins to tell a tale--of greed, lust, and deceit. As the story unfolds, Stella, Ritzi, and Maria slyly break out of their prescribed roles, and it becomes clear that these three women know a lot more than they'd initially let on.
With a layered intensity and tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a gripping tale that will transport reader to a bygone era. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.
****aaaaahhhhhhh*****(Is that how you type out the Hallelujah sound?)
Ariel Lawhon transports readers to 1930's New York gatherings full of corrupt police, politicians, and showgirls. Too often movies and books depicting this era take on the masculine angle of guns and gangsters with girls on the side and while women have often been embroiled in controversies and conspiracies, the focus is generally on the men. Until now. Lawhon's three female main characters exemplify the three layers of social strata of the time: politician's wife, working class woman, and showgirl. Each of these women have problems that the other women have no concept of, but they are all linked in that they each have ties to Judge Joseph Crater.
The three storylines are all equally interesting. Often I find myself reading a book with multiple storylines and will rush through one storyline to get to the next. While I must admit that Ritzi (the mistress) was my favorite, Maria (the maid,) and Stella (the wife) each found themselves stuck in tough situations that I found myself squirming empathetically to find out what they were going to do. As for the judge.....I haven't loved to hate a character so much in a long time! Each time I thought I had figured out what really happened to him, the story took another turn. I was flipping the final pages with a passion to know what happened next while simultaneously savoring every word. I also especially loved the author's notes at the end of the novel supplying information about the characters and settings in the story because I found myself wondering throughout my reading which parts were true and which were provided through Lawhon's imagination.
The characters, settings, and multiple story angles made The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress the best reading vacation I have been on in a long time. So grab a copy, pour a glass of champagne, and prepare to travel back to noir 1930's New York.
** I received this book in exchange for an honest review **