This is a very special book, as it is by one of the Shereads.org co-founders, Ariel Lawhon. Not only that, but it turned out to be one of the best books I have read. Please take a moment to check it out. Pam, I think you would really like this one.
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 rating: 5 of 5 stars
Have you ever read a book that you just can’t stop thinking, or talking about and immediately after finishing you just want to tell EVERYONE about it? Me too. This book, to be exact. I read a lot, so I like to think I have become rather discerning when it comes to the important things like depth of character creation, plot, pace and the way the author chooses to wrap up the story. In this case, I am so fantastically impressed with this book that I can’t wait until the end of this review to tell you to go read it.
Go. Read. It.
This book is a fictional account of Associate Justice Joseph Force Crater’s 1930’s disappearance and the involvement and the lingering effects it had on his wife, their maid and his mistress. Whilst, Crater was labeled as “The Missingest Man in New York,” this imagining of his disappearance is so well crafted, one could almost believe the mystery has finally been solved. I have always held a certain fascination with this case, so when I saw the book, I was skeptical about how I would receive it. Fictional accounts can go either way, in my previous experience. What I found, was a wonderfully entertaining book that Ariel Lawhon must have done hours upon hours of research to put together. This book follows the facts of the original case with some liberties taken here and there for entertainment purposes. She has used these facts to build characters that are so real, you feel what they feel.
Hating a character has advantages. There is rarely anything more fulfilling than when you grow to despise a character throughout the course of a story and then get to watch as they unravel. This book is filled with both characters that you will grow to love (I loved Ritzi) and grow to despise.
I was taken with Ritzi, but I was also particularly interested in Stella. The author painted her as a strong woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Her character lingers in my mind even now, after finishing the book the day prior.
Another impressive thing was the author’s ability to take real people from the case and give them a life of her own imagining. I was thrilled with her inclusion of the mob, as well as the sad plight of Vivian Gordon. Poor Jimmy Walker. Her attention to detail was fantastic, even having Joseph mention Stella’s previous marriage, for anyone familiar with this case–the way they met was more than interesting–and the excerpts taken from “The Empty Robe,” the much sensationalised memoir by Stella with assistance from Oscar Fraley.
The life she built for Maria was amazing, and in my opinion was the glue that held this story together and made it more of an emotional experience rather than just another “based on a real event” novel. The book made me cry. A lot.
The main reason I loved this novel, was the way the mystery unfolded. The alternating stories of Maria, Stella and Sally and those connected to them were not only interesting, but pieced together perfectly to create a truly unsolvable mystery. Even when I thought I had everything figured out, in the last few chapters, I was wrong. I love it when a book can keep me guessing for the duration.
I could go on for hours here, but I am trying to avoid any type of spoiler and this is a complex book. I highly recommend that you take the time to read it, you won’t be sorry.
Overall opinion? This book is not likely to “pull a Crater” anytime soon.
I received this book as part of the Shereads.org group of bloggers. All opinions are my own.
For anyone who has not yet heard about Shereads.org, please give them a few moments of your time and see all of the incredible things they are doing to promote women’s literacy.