Thursday, February 20, 2014

"the wife, the maid, and the mistress" by ariel lawhon

About the book (from Amazon): A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930—Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance—as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. 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 the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks—one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale—of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

My take: Corruption. Lust. Hate. Love. Conspiracy. All are present in Ariel Lawhon's intriguing look at what could have happened in the real-life case of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater. As the story unfolded, I found myself swept into this world of mobsters, showgirls, and spurned lovers. In essence, the reader experiences the story along with Jude (the NYPD detective who Stella finally decides to give the full story to). Most of the novel reveals only part of the truth, making the end twist that much more satisfying. I do wish Lawhon would have moved the action along a bit faster, as the story does seem to take an incredibly long time to tell. But overall, I greatly enjoyed The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress.

Content note: As this is not the type of book I normally review, I felt a content warning was in order. As you've probably guessed, there is nothing remotely Christian about The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress. The setting alone would give some people pause, and there is also profanity scattered throughout. Also, a few sexual situations crop up, though none are even remotely explicit. If this book were a film, it would probably be rated PG-13. 

My rating: 4 stars

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About the author: Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress, is centered around the still-unsolved disappearance of New York State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free for review from through its Vine reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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