The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A Novel

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A Novel

by Ariel Lawhon

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Overview

“Inspired by a real-life unsolved mystery, this mesmerizing novel features characters that make a lasting impression.”—PEOPLE MAGAZINE

"More meticulously choreographed than a chorus line. It all pays off."—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW


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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385537629
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Co-founder of the popular reading blog SheReads, ARIEL LAWHON lives in Nashville with her husband and four boys.

Read an Excerpt

9780385537629|excerpt

Lawhon / THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS

Club Abbey, Greenwich Village, August 6, 1969

WE BEGIN IN A BAR. We will end here as well but that is more than you need to know at the moment. For now, a woman sits in a corner booth waiting to give her confession. But her party is late, and without an audience she looks small and alone, like an invalid in an over-sized church pew. It’s not so easy for her, this truth telling, and she strains against it. A single strand of pearls—brittle and yellowed with age—rests against the flat plane of her chest. She rolls them between her fingers as though counting the beads on a rosary. Stella Crater has avoided this confession for thirty-nine years. The same number of years she has been coming to this bar.

        
Not long ago this meeting would have been a spectacle, splashed across the headlines of every paper in New York: Wife of Missing Judge Meets with Lead Investigator, Tells All! But the days of front-page spreads, interviews, and accusations are over, filed away in some distant archive. Tonight her stage is empty.
        
Stella looks at her watch. Nine-fifteen.

        
Club Abbey was once a speakeasy during the Jazz age, and is now another relic in Greenwich Village, peddling its former glory through the tourist guides. It sits one floor below street level, dark and subdued. Scuffed pine floors. Black and white photos line the walls. An aging jukebox has long since replaced the jazz quartet. The only remnant is Stan, the bartender. He was fifteen when hired by notorious gangster Owney Madden to sweep the floors at closing. Owney took a liking to the kid, as did the showgirls, and Stan’s been behind the bar ever since. He’s never missed Stella’s ritual. His part is small, but he plays it well.

        
Two lowball glasses. Twelve cubes of ice split between them. Crown Royal on the rocks. Stan arranges napkins on her table and sets the glasses down. Her eyes are slick with a watery film—the harbinger of age and death. 
        
“Good to see you again, Mrs. Crater.”

 Stella swats him away with an emaciated hand and he hangs back to watch, drying glasses with a dishtowel. It’s the same thing every year: she sits alone in her booth for a few minutes and then he brings the drinks. Straight whiskey, the way her husband liked it. She’ll raise one glass, saluting the empty place across from her, and say, “Good luck, Joe, wherever you are.” Stella will take her time with the drink, letting it burn, drawing out the moment until there’s nothing left in her glass. That is when she’ll rise and walk out, leaving the other drink untouched.

        
Except tonight she does none of these things.

 Fifteen minutes she sits there, rubbing the rim of her glass. Stan has no script for what to do next and he stares at her, confused. He doesn’t see the door swing open or the older gentleman enter. Doesn’t see the trench coat or the faded gray fedora. Sees none of it until Detective Jude Simon slides into the booth across from Stella. 
        
She lays her palm on the table, inches from a pack of cigarettes, and sits up straighter. The booth is hard against her back, walnut planks pressing against the knobs of her spine. “You’re late.”
        
“Stella.” Jude touches the brim of his hat in greeting. He takes stock of her shriveled body.  Tips his head to the side.

“It’s been years.”

“You were here the first time, makes sense that you’d be here the last.” Stella lifts her glass and takes a sip of whiskey. Shudders. “Call it a deathbed confession.”

Jude surveys the room through the weary smoke. The regular Thursday night crowd, a few women, mostly men are scattered around in groups of twos and threes drinking longnecks and griping about the stock market. “This isn’t exactly a church and I’m not much of a priest,” he says.

“Priest. Detective. What’s the difference? You both love a good confession.”

His shoulders twitch—a doubter’s shrug. “I’m retired.”

Stella pulls a cigarette from the pack and props it between her lips. She looks at him, expectant.

 He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tarnished silver lighter. Something like a smile crosses his face and then melts away. He stares at it for a moment, cupped there in his palm before striking it with his thumb. Jude used to be handsome, decades ago when Stella first met him, and the traces are still there in the square line of his jaw and the steel-blue eyes. But now he looks tired and sad. A bit wilted. It takes three tries before a weak flame erupts from the lighter. Perhaps his hand trembles as he holds it toward her or it could be a trick of the light. 

Stella tips her cigarette into the flame and the end glows orange. “You would be here tonight even if I hadn’t asked you to come.” Her eyes shift toward the bar where Stan pretends not to eavesdrop. “You have your sources.”

 “Maybe.” Jude hangs his fedora on a peg beside the booth and pulls a pad and pen from inside his coat pocket. He waits for her to speak.

Stella lured him here with the promise of a story—the real version this time. He has been like a duck after breadcrumbs for thirty-nine years. Pecking. Relentless. Gobbling up every scrap she leaves for him. Yet the truth is not something she will rush tonight. He will get it one morsel at a time.

 Stella Crater picked her poison a long time ago—unfiltered Camels—and she takes a long drag now, sizing up her pet duck. Her cheeks collapse into the sharp angles of her face and she holds the smoke in her lungs for a long moment before blowing it from between her teeth. Oh, she’ll tell Detective Simon a story all right.

Chapter One

Belgrade Lakes, Maine, Saturday, August 2, 1930

Stella slept with the windows thrown open that summer, a breeze blowing back the curtains. The sounds of nature lulled her to sleep: frogs croaking in the shallow water beneath her window, the hum of a dragonfly outside the rusted screen, the call of a loon across the lake. She lay there, with one arm thrown across her face in resistance to the burgeoning sunlight, when she heard the Cadillac crunch up the long gravel driveway.

Joe.

Stella sat up and threw her legs over the edge of the bed, toes resting against the cool floorboards. She pushed a tangle of pale curls away from her eyes with a fine-boned hand. Yawned. Then grabbed a blue cotton shift from the floor and pulled it over her tan shoulders. She hadn’t expected her husband to come—hadn’t wanted him to—but there was no mistaking the familiar rumble of that engine. She went out to meet him wearing yesterday’s dress and a contrived grin.

“You’re back.”

Joseph Crater leaned out the open window and drew her in for a kiss. “Drove all night. We beat the Bar Harbor Express by an hour!” He clapped their chauffeur on the back. “We’ll have to paint a racing stripe down the side of this old thing.”

Stella pulled the car door open and saw two things at once: he’d brought her flowers—white peonies, her favorite—and he wasn’t wearing his wedding band. Again. The sight of that naked finger stripped the grin from her face.

Joe climbed out and reached for her with one arm, but she took a small step backward and looked at his pants pocket. The imprint of his ring pressed round against his cotton trousers. The question that surfaced was not the one she really wanted to ask. “Did you have a pleasant trip?”

He nodded.

“Where did you go?”

Joe’s answer was cautious. “Atlantic City. With William Klein.”

Her voice was even, almost carefree. “Just the two of you?” Joe hesitated long enough for her to rephrase the question. “Were you and William alone?”

He glanced at Fred Kahler, stiff behind the wheel, eyes downcast, and responded with a single sharp word. “Stell.”

It took a moment to find her breath. All that fresh air and she couldn’t pull a stitch of it into her lungs. “Must you be so flagrant about it?”

“We’ll talk about this later.”

Stella heard the warning in his voice, but didn’t care. She rose up onto the balls of her feet, the gravel digging into her bare skin, as anger ripped through her voice. “We have nothing to talk about!”

His eyes went small and dark.

Stella grabbed the car door and, with a rage that startled them both, slammed it shut, crushing Joe’s hand in the frame. She heard the crunch before he screamed, and when he yanked his hand away, two fingers were bloody and mangled.

Stella waited for Joe on the deck of the Salt House. It was Belgrade Lakes’ only fine-dining establishment, and they’d been late, thanks to his difficulty dressing with one hand. She had refused to help him.

Joe hadn’t yelled at her after the incident. Hadn’t called her names or lifted a hand to strike her. All he said was, “I’ll need your help with this mess.” Almost polite. Then he soaked his hand in the kitchen sink and waited for her to gather ointment and gauze. She had wrapped the bandage tighter than necessary, angered anew by his cavalier attitude and the way he expected her to accept that a man of his position would have a mistress. As though some skirt on Broadway was the same thing as a membership in the City Club.

By the time they arrived at the restaurant, he’d created a plausible fiction for his injury. “Had a beastly run-in with a Studebaker,” Joe explained to their waiter, wiggling his fingers for effect. “Damn thing tried to eat my hand for lunch.” And then, shortly after being seated, he excused himself to make a phone call.

Stella ordered their meal from a menu of summer fare: grilled fish, steaks, roasted vegetables, and fruit. A pleasant breeze rolled off the lake, rocking the Chinese lanterns that were strung around the deck. The red-and-yellow globes sent dancing spheres of amber across the linen tablecloths. Only a handful of the tables were occupied, and the diners leaned close over the candles, lost in conversation or in silence as they enjoyed the view. The longer she waited for Joe to return, the more they sent sympathetic glances her way.

The meal arrived with wine and bread, and Stella shifted candles and silverware to make room for the ample dinner. She waited until their server departed with his tray before taking a long drink of merlot. Steam rose from the pan-seared trout with lemon-caper sauce on her plate, and she wondered what sort of mood Joe would be in when he finished his call.

Minutes later, the door banged open on loose hinges, and Stella forced a smile as Joe strode toward the table, shoulders rounded forward like an ox. It was a look Stella knew well. Fury and determination and arrogance.

He yanked his chair away from the table with his good hand. “I’m leaving in the morning.”

“Why?”

“I have to go back to the city tomorrow. Straighten a few things out. I’ll be back on Thursday, in plenty of time for your birthday.”

“But—”

“Don’t snivel. It doesn’t become you.” Joe unfolded the crisp black napkin and spread it over his lap. “You shouldn’t have waited. Food’s getting cold.”

Stella stayed in bed when Joe pushed back the covers at six the next morning. She stayed there while he bathed—the water turning on with a groan of rusted pipes—and when his toothbrush tapped against the sink. Stella stayed curled around her pillow when he rattled through the dresser and yanked his clothes from the closet. Didn’t move when he nudged her shoulder or when he cursed or when he brushed dry lips against her temple—a rote farewell—his freshly shaved chin rubbing against her cheek. Not until she heard his footsteps on the stairs did she open her eyes. And only when the Cadillac roared to life outside did she sit up. Four steps brought her to the window. She wiped his kiss from her temple. “Goodbye.”

The last Stella Crater ever saw of her husband was a glimpse of his shirt collar through the rear window as Fred eased the Cadillac down the gravel driveway.

Reading Group Guide

THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS
DISCUSSION GUIDE
 
 
 
   1. Many of the scandals depicted in The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress could easily be on the cover of People magazine today.  We often tend to romanticize bygone eras like the 1930s.  Did this novel open your eyes to the fact that the more things change the more they stay the same? 
 

  2. What did you think when Maria returned to Judge Crater’s room and took the envelope her husband had planted there?  Was it a gutsy move or foolish?
 
 
   3. There is a very unusual bond that develops between Maria, Ritzi and Stella.  How is their connection different from female friendships today?  Are there similarities?
 

    4. The three women actually exert a tremendous amount of influence over the men in their lives, but it’s all done in a very surreptitious way.  What does this say about the dynamic between men and women in the 1930s?
 
 
   5. “Only fools underestimate the strength of Stella Crater.”  Were you surprised at Stella’s evolution from seemingly “good wife” to ultimate power player?
 

   6. There are some interesting counterpoints going on in the novel:  Jude and Maria’s happy marriage compared with Judge Crater and Stella’s marriage of convenience; Maria’s inability to have a child and Ritzi’s unwanted child.  How did these juxtapositions enhance your enjoyment of the novel?
 

   7. Did you find the contents of Ritzi’s letter to Stella surprising?  What about Maria’s role?
 

   8. There are many real people and events woven into the storyline.  Were you inspired to find out more about people like Judge Crater, Owney Madden, William Klein, and Ritzi?  Who was the person who intrigued you the most?
 

   9. Who would you cast as Stella, Maria, and Ritzi if the book were to be made into a movie?
 

   10. Judge Crater’s disappearance remains a mystery to this day.  What do you think happened to him?
 
 
 
 
PLACES IN THE BOOK, THEN AND NOW…
 
 
Club Abbey: 46th & 8th Ave. Owned by Owney Madden, this notorious Tammany Hall gathering spot no longer exits. During its heyday, the speakeasy entertained a number of violent gangsters including Jack “Legs” Diamond, Dutch Schulz, and Vincent “Mad Dog” Call. It was not uncommon to see members of the underworld sharing a drink with judges, politicians, and prominent businessmen.
 
Belasco Theater: 111 West 44th St. The theater is owned by The Schubert Organization—the company William Klein worked for—and is still operational today.
 
 
Billy Haas’s Chophouse: 332 West 45th Street. Joseph Crater ate his final meal here on the evening of August 6th, 1930 and it is the last place that anyone will admit to seeing him alive. The building still remains though the address does not.
 
The Schubert Organization , the location of William Klein’s office, is still thriving. They currently own seventeen Broadway theaters in New York City.
 
New York Surrogate’s Court: 100 Centre Street. This is where Stella Crater went to get the papers of administration after Joe’s disappearance. Without these papers she could not access the money in their bank accounts or tend to any legal issues.
 
Joseph and Stella Crater’s Apartment: 40 Fifth Avenue. This historic building is still operational and houses some of New York’s finest apartments. It is rumored that if you loiter around the building too long, the doorman will ask if you’re looking for the missing judge.
 
Morosco Theatre: 217 West 45th Street. Originally owned by The Schubert Organization, it was lost during the Depression and after changing hands several times fell into disrepair. The building was torn down in 1982 and replaced by the 49-story Marriott Marquis and the Marquis Theater.
 
Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs & The Luna Park Amusement Park: the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, Coney Island. While Nathan’s Famous is still at its original location and thriving, Luna Park was torn down in 1944. However, a second Luna Park opened in 2010, at 1000 Surf Avenue, at the corner of West 10th Street.
 
 
 
The Cotton Club: Broadway and 48th Street. One of several clubs owned by notorious gangster Owney Madden, the Cotton Club was the bustling hub of a major bootlegging ring. Popular for its music, the club also helped launch the careers of Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Adelaide Hall.
 
Maria and Jude’s Appartment: number 32, 97 Orchard Street. Now the location of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the building was home to over 7,000 people from twenty nations during the seventy-two years that it held apartments. It is currently available for tours.
 
 

Interviews

Joshilyn Jackson: Your novel revisits an unsolved mystery of Old New York. How did you first find it? What about it made you want to use the truth as a vehicle to drive your own story?

Ariel: I'd never heard of Joseph Crater until I read an article about him in The New York Post nine years ago. I didn't know that his disappearance was the biggest missing person's case of the twentieth century or that he was a household name for almost fifty years. It was fascinating. But in all of that, what intrigued me most was his wife Stella, and her strange yearly ritual. Starting on the first anniversary of her husband's disappearance, she would go to a bar in Greenwich Village and order two drinks. She'd raise one in salute, “Good luck, Joe, wherever you are!” Then she'd drink it and walk out of the bar, leaving the other untouched on the table. She did this every year for thirty-nine years. After reading that article Stella Crater took up permanent residence in my mind. I'd close my eyes and she'd be there, in that corner booth, a glass of whiskey in her hand, practically daring me to tell her story. So I did.

Joshilyn: You have blended actual historical events so seamlessly into your fiction that I can't tell where truth ends and your imagination takes over. How did you create this world?

Ariel: The real Crater mystery is filled with all these fascinating but seemingly disconnected details: mysterious cash-filled envelopes, theater tickets, grand jury investigations, random injuries, missing wills, bribery allegations. I wanted to take all the peripheral details that are often nothing more than footnotes in the historical record and make them integral to the story. But this could only be done when put in contrast with the real people involved: crooked politicians, seedy gangsters, an uncooperative wife, ambitious dancing girls, theater moguls, police officers, nosey reporters. It was all there for the taking but there were gaps. Big questions no one could answer with any certainty, not the least of which is what actually happened to Judge Crater. So I took the details I could verify (hello research you are my drug) and then arranged the blank spaces to fit my own theories. In the end, it became a portrait of what could have happened.

Joshilyn: You have three narrators---which of them is least like you? And did that distance make it easier or harder to write her?

Ariel: Don't be like me. Don't write three different stories centered on the same missing man and then try to weave them together into a cohesive whole. You will feel like you're sewing up a bag of cats. And you will, inevitably, find that one character is easier to write than the others (Ritzi). You will like her best even though you aren't supposed to play favorites. This will do strange things to your moral compass, because you like the mistress best. One of the characters will be cold and elusive and you will have nothing in common with her (Stella). She will scare you a little bit and make you doubt your own ability at every turn. Her name will become an expletive. And then there will be one that surprises you (Maria). She will be both devout and sensual. You will make her do things that cause you unreasonable guilt given her imaginary status. You will lose sleep. In the end she will break your heart.

Joshilyn: Where do you do your writing?

Ariel: Anywhere. Everywhere. The first flat surface I can find that isn't littered with Legos or used Band Aids. The better question would probably be when do you write (answer: whenever white space shows up on the calendar). Apparently there is this thing called biology. And it WORKS. So thanks to biology I have four children. All of them boys. All of them highly intelligent and off-the-charts active. We call them The Wild Rumpus. And we will not buy nice things until they grow up and leave home. So the when and where of writing is a daily tightrope walk for me. It's probably not the best way to write books but it's the only way I know how and it seems to be working well so far.

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The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author apparently did not bother to check the year in which polyester was first used in clothing. It was 1941. This rather obvious error makes me question the rest oh her research. Historical fiction permits its author to elaborate upon events, but only in the context of the time. Additionally, she states that a victrola played constantly when no one was at home. A victrola is not a radio, and automatic replays did not occur without someone placing the tone arm containing the needle back to the beginning of the record; otherwise, the needle would circle around the center of the record continuously when the needle had progressed from the edge of the record to the center. Victrolas were entirely manually operated; they were not radios and had to be cranked to make the turntable spin. The author has probably never seen a record player in operation, much less a victrola. I have not even read half of this book, and I am disgusted by the lack of scholarship. I purchased it because the disappearance of this judge was a story about which I knew nothing, so I was anticipating learning something. I cannot view this book as being much better than a Harlequin romance, and those books are dreck, but if a reader likes that kind of story, he or she will enjoy this book. I learned more about Justice Crator from Wikopedia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Wife, The Maid & The Mistress has the setting of Rules of Civility, but is a little naughtier and definitely more suspenseful. The three women, Stella, Ritzi and Maria, have distinct personalities and although I had a favorite, I was very happy spending time in each of their worlds. The mystery elements lead up to a dramatic conclusion to this famous cold case.
Cupid More than 1 year ago
Slimy politicians, gangsters, and showgirls! A fun trip to the 1930's and 1960's, centered around the case of a missing judge. There are glimpses of the grandiose Broadway shows of the 1930's from a showgirl's perspective. But not just any showgirl...one linked to big crime and dirty political dealings. While the coincidence of the main characters is a little hard to believe, it is a novel based on a true event with the author taking artistic license as to what really happened. If you read this as a novel, it is a good read. If you read this as nonfiction accounting of an actual event, you should remember that it is fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story of each of the 3 women (the wife, the maid and the mistress) is well thought out and engaging. You can relate to each of the characters, their stories, and feel empathy for them. It was also a fascinating story based on historical events, yet told in a way that made this compelling historical fiction. It was a book I didn't want to put down, and written in the perspective of 3 voices, which I enjoy.
camilledimaio More than 1 year ago
When I’m not running after four kids, selling houses, or agonizing over word choices in my next novel, I can be found making tapestry pillows. I follow a pattern – I’m not that artistic – but, I find great joy (and therapeutic value) in revealing the picture stitch by stitch, color by color. Some authors accomplish this through words, as Ariel Lawhon did masterfully in “The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress”. Do you judge a book by its cover? I do. At least, literally. And that is how I stumbled upon this great read yesterday, as I was heading to the Barnes and Noble resister with books up to my chin. There was not room for one more, considering my short stature, but Joan Wong‘s remarkable cover art captivated me. The wife – depicted in a smart suit and pearls. The maid – wearing the predictable black and white uniform. The showgirl mistress – scantily clad in red and gold. All coming together as one, with a common problem, and a common goal. While the synopsis was enough to convince me to part with $16 hard-earned dollars, I did not realize until I came home and opened its pages that the story is, in fact, based on the real-life disappearance of a New York State Supreme Court Judge in 1930. Most of the characters are real, but Lawhon blurs fact and fiction into the many-decades-old mystery as she imagines what could have happened. It is a whodunnit, a book noir, a work of historical fiction all in one. Ariel Lawhon, who runs the popular book review site She Reads, uncovers the scenario bit by bit, day by day, leaving the reader guessing until the very end. She was particularly adept at creating brief flashbacks that added texture to the narrative, but I would caution a reader to note the dates carefully so that they know where the present ends and the past begins. When read with that detail in mind, I predict that you will want to put all else aside as you finish the book in a day and then wonder which of your fellow book lovers would like to borrow it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tedious and boring, with no likable characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed every moment of of this book! Ihave already recommended it to several other people to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was not written very well and the plot was very predictable. It was about 80 pages too long and the ending was not surprising or interesting. It was hard to follow at times because the author kept jumping back in forth in time, which eventually got very irritating. I did like how the point of view switched between the different characters but other than that I did not like this book. It took me forever to read it and was glad I finished it so I would just be done with it.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
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. 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. Allison @ The Book Wheel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really well written. It held my attention. Fasinating time period. Great way to tell about an actual murder. Another good book on the NOOK is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This book is also based on an actual villian. Both books deserve A+++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put down,finished in one weekend.
sneps More than 1 year ago
Too Good to Be True, but it is!! One word: WOW! This novel has so many twists and turns, debauchery, infidelity, infertility, mistresses, maids with a little too much information, and a corrupt system. I love books that mix fact with fiction, weaved together by one creative mind: Ariel Lawhon’s! This is not a quick read, by any means, as there are a lot of characters important to the storyline-that you will want to know. I did find myself getting confused with the year/dates, as the story does jump back to before Crater’s disappearance, to after his disappearance, and then later in life. Based on the real life mystery surrounding Joseph Crater’s disappearance, there are 3 women, who Ariel shines light on. While there are creative liberties used to fill in the gap of information not know, Ariel’s writing is seamless and the story flows like a true crime novel should. I absolutely loved the characters Ariel creates to help make the story well rounded (won’t reveal who…you have to read it!), and the characters she expounds on-who were quite interesting and fascinating to read about. This is a fantastic story, with everyone being a suspect…even the police. Set in the 1930′s, Ariel captures the glamour, the seediness of the club-limited to showgirls, corrupt politicians, and mobsters, corrupt political systems and the impact it has on an affluent family, murder suspicion, three women who are connected in one way or another, which just kept me fully engaged the whole time. I am blown away by this fantastic historical fiction novel, written by a first time author, who read a lot of conspiracy theories, novels, newspaper clippings, and somewhere in all of that research material-she brings forth this incredible novel!! An excellent novel for book club discussions, for anyone that loves political/true unsolved crime novels, and historical fiction.-BooksintheBurbs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would make an awesome movie! Dynamic characters in a who done it story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Judge Carter still reins?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quick page turner with great Mystery. The author was clear this was a work of fiction while including a lot of details of the real case.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author leaves a void at the center of the book; of judge Crater we learn only that he likes sex and is is dishonest and disagreeable - nothing more.The three women of the title are well drawn and all loathe him, but their doings at the end of the book were, well absurdly unlikely. The author includes so many anachronisms, I was wondering if she was doing it intentionally- a little research & understanding of the period is a good idea when wriring historical fiction. A typical one: Mrs. Crater giving her maid a "cocktail dress" from her wardrobe for the maid to wear while serving guests; in 1930, Fifth Avenue maids wore uniforms - period, end of story. Would Governor Franklin Roosevelt have attended a small party with a prominent gangster/murderer as in the book? You may as well have Herbert Hoover meeting Al Capone. And as for Stella seeing Joan Blondell in Life magazine in 1929? Joan didn''t even get to Hollywood until1930, and Life was a small format photo-free weekly humor magazine at that time, which author confuses it with the later (1936) news/photojournalism one. And if Stella liked the shoes she saw on Joan in Life, she certaily wouldn't have had to order them from "Hollywood", they would almost certainly have been easily enough found in New York - the center of the fashion industry. And Polyester, and filtered cigarettes and "garbage bags" were all things of the future in 1930.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TonyaTells More than 1 year ago
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. -- I believe that if a book makes you want to know more about the subject, the author has done a fantastic job! I think Ms Lawhon did a fantastic job with this mystery. I really enjoyed getting pieces of each character. I didn't have a favorite, I loved each woman. I really enjoy the mystery, and even better since it is based on true facts. We will probably never know what really happened to the judge but Lawhon did a fabulous job with maybe guessing based on true accounts. I think she definitely has a gift and I hope she continues to write more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TumTumite More than 1 year ago
Wife, Maid, Mistress was a very enjoyable book. Simply written with a twist at the end. Don't do as I did and read the end early, it won't make as much sense if you do. Be patient and just let the story flow. The style of writing was extremely magnetic. From the first chapter, I was drawn into the story.