Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Julie's Review: The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

Author: Ariel Lawhon
Series: No
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 4
Bottom Line: Fiction blended well with fact in this historical mystery.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: 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. ~powells.com

Review:The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is an intriguing look a mysterious disappearance of a NYC judge during the heydays of the 1930s. I had no clue that this unsolved mystery existed, which is why is sucked me in. I thoroughly enjoyed how Ms. Lawhon told the story from 3 very different women's points of view. Their lives are intertwined because of the Judge. Each one has a different role in his life. Each one of them have their own secrets and sorrows.

For me, the most complex character was Ritzi, the mistress. She was the most well-rounded of the 3. I understand why she made the choices she did. I felt her dreams and her sorrows. I rooted for her from beginning to the end. I wondered how she was going to get out her situation with Madden. It didn't take her long to realize that her dreams weren't worth the cost of her soul.

I empathized with Maria and her plight but I wasn't overly convinced why she was so involved in the  story. Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that she was married to the Detective investigating Judge Crater's disappearance. Stella should have had my sympathy but she wasn't very likable. She was all about keeping up appearances. She was more concerned with how she looked in public and her welfare that what really happened to her husband. She wanted to maintain her lifestyle at all costs.

Ms. Lawhon builds the story methodically and keeps you engaged by switching the point of view. We get to know Judge Crater through each of these women. Let's just say that when he disappears I wasn't overly upset. Much of the story is about the aftermath and behaviors of those surrounding Judge Crater. No one is beyond suspicion; no one is innocent.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction and enjoy a good unsolved mystery then pick up Ms. Lawhon's The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress . I definitely look forward to her next novel.



Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific review, Julie! I can't wait to crack the spine on this one.

Julie said...

You will enjoy it, Beth!! You have a lot of reading ahead of you. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm just getting ready to start this one. Glad you liked it!