After reading my friend Stacy’s review on this book, I immediately added it to my Goodreads list. Political scandal, mystery, the 1930s and based off a real life event? You know I’m in! So when my book club was picking our next book club book, I threw this one out and my friends thought it sounded just as intriguing as I did.
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.
Here’s the thing you need to know. Once you finish this book you may or may not spend a significant amount of time going on an internet research spree. Because OF COURSE I need to know about the real case and all it entailed. Shady McShady. Just say no to the mob internet.
Sneaky Mrs. Lawhon. Sneaky! With engaging writing, twisting plots and SAY WHA? type moments, this book will keep you hooked from the first page and guessing until the last. Not only are there fantastic descriptions of the time period (think corruption, politics, Broadway and jazz clubs), Lawhon creates layered characters who keep you guessing, and whether or not you like them, you’re intrigued by them. I thought what Lawhon did with each woman (their stories and descriptions) was creative and so good!
Starting in 1969 and then flashing back to the time of the disappearance, the flashbacks and flashforwards work for this novel and add to the intrigue and surprises. I really enjoyed this one! It’s not the happiest of all stories, but history doesn’t always end up that way. It’s a time period I’m fascinated with and who isn’t intrigued by the power the mob had, along with the police and political corruption? There’s a quote I really REALLY want to share, but that would give it all away, so if you’ve read it, then we can chat and I’ll tell you my favorite quote :).
Did you know of the famous Joseph Crater’s disappearance? What are some of your favorite mob or political novels?