Published by Knopf/DoubleDay on January 14, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: She Reads
From Goodreads: One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of the chorus line.
As the twisted truth emerges, Ariel Lawhon’s wickedly entertaining debut mystery transports us into the smoky jazz clubs, the seedy backstage dressing rooms, and the shadowy streets beneath the Art Deco skyline.
From the first few pages of The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon, I knew I would be hooked. You see, the book is centered around the ripped-from-the-headlines disappearance of a NY State Supreme Court judge who just happened to go missing on the date of my anniversary: August 6. This is, of course, a complete coincidence, but it did intrigue me from the get-go.
At it’s core, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is speculative fiction, that is it’s a story of what could have happened to Judge Crater, based on real facts and characters. Set in 1930, it is clear from the first few pages that book is poised to be a confession by Judge Crater’s wife, Stella. As she sits in a seedy bar in 1969 with the man who investigated her husband’s disappearance, she recreates the year the judge stepped into a cab, never to be seen again. Told from the perspectives of the three women in Judge Crater’s life (his wife, maid, and mistress), Lawhon weaves tale of deception, passion, and unspeakable crimes. As the women independently investigate the judge’s disappearance, they delve into the seedy underbelly of Broadway, learn of the corrupt authorities, and the experience the danger of gangsters. Ultimately, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress begs the questions of who knew what, and when they knew it.
“…. the truth is more important than protecting yourself. Regardless of the consequences.”
I raced through this book in one sitting and can’t recommend it highly enough. Although all of the characters were fully developed, Lawhon’s three heroines were crafted perfectly. Each with her own story, Stella (the wife), Maria (the maid), and Ritzi (the mistress) could easily have a book of their own. Their carefully crafted stories blended together seamlessly, and I finished the book wanting to read everything I could about every single one of them. This isn’t because anything was missing, but because they were so well-cared for by Lawhon that I want more of them.
One of the things I loved about this book is the way Lawhon uses seemingly innocuous details to signify the ties that bind the three women together. For example, a streak left by a finger in the dust by one woman and noticed by another paints a better picture of their interconnectedness than an entire chapter could tell. Lawhon’s mastery of subtlety adds a resounding layer of authenticity that will stay with you for days after you’ve finished reading the book.
It’s clear that Lawhon put her heart and soul into this book and it was definitely worth the risk. I cannot accurate express how glorious of an experience it was to read The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress, but I sincerely hope that you take the time to find out for yourself.