The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
(Summary taken from the inside of the book jacket.) “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 Judge Crater to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective for the NYPD. Meanwhile, Judge Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden. Then, on a sultry summer night, as rumors circulated about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, Judge Crater stepped into a cab and disappeared without a trace. Or did he? After thirty-nine years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a corner booth at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella begins to tell a tale–of greed, lust, and deceit. As the story unfolds, Stella, Ritzi, and Maria slyly break out of their prescribed roles, and it becomes clear that these three women know a lot more than they’d initially let on.”
I found it interesting that this fictional story is based on the actual disappearance of the real Judge Crater back in 1930. He was a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Many of the people in this story actually existed, along with some of the situations. Ms. Lawhon simply took those people and situations, and created her version of what happened. I liked the history in this story, and found it interesting how things really haven’t changed a whole lot in 80+ years. We still have corruption in government, and we still have women who silently have to put up with their husband’s antics. I think Maria was my favorite character. I related to her a little more than I related to Stella or Ritzi. The main women characters were well developed, along with a few of the men characters. Judge Crater and Owney Madden were well done, along with Shorty and Stan. I thought Jude was well developed, and liked his character. I loved Maria and Jude together. I liked their love story, and felt so bad for what they endured. I didn’t like the lies that existed in their marriage, though.
This book was not an easy read for me. There are so many characters, time periods, places, and things going on all at once that I found it choppy and confusing. There were some chapters that had two or three times and places involved in it; sometimes the times would be times would be previous to the current situation, and sometimes they would be later. I relied heavily on the chapter headings, and had to go back a few times to make sure I knew where I was. The more I read the easier it got, but even at the end there were characters I couldn’t remember. I wasn’t a huge fan of the subject matter in the book either. Scandals, illicit love affairs, murders, abortions, smoking, corruption, and gangsters aren’t really my thing. However, if you like the subject matter then you may really enjoy this book. It did have some good tension, mystery, and suspense. There was a lot of language, including at least one “f” word. There was a lot of smoking and drinking. There was quite a bit of “intimacy,” and an illicit love affair. There were a few violent murders (gangster-style) and violence against women. One of the women goes to get an abortion. I can see how this was quite the scandal back in 1930….it would be quite the scandal now! And with the 24 hour news cycle, it would probably be even bigger news. It’s sad that there have been a few situations similar to this in recent years.
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers) Profanity, nudity, murder, “intimacy,” smoking, drinking, abortion, and violence against women.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, Ariel Lawhon is one of the main gals at shereads.org.