On August 6th, 1930, Judge Joseph Crater – a man with seedy mob ties who was under suspicion for purchasing his seat on the New York State Supreme Court – disappeared without a trace. To this day his disappearance remains a mystery. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress uses what is known about Judge Crater, his various connections and the people closest to him to present a thrilling and emotional story of what might have brought down this flawed and powerful man.
The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress is told from the point of view of the three women closest to Joseph Crater: his wife Stella, their maid Maria Simon and Crater’s mistress Sally Lou Ritz. Ariel Lawhon does an excellent job of bringing these three women to life, flaws and all. Each woman has gotten herself wrapped tightly into a spot that could prove quite dangerous if they try to break away on their own terms. In a world of dark and seedy speakeasies where powerful and violent men hold all the cards, the women will have to keep level heads and beat the men at their own games to survive.
The pacing is perfect, starting the story 39 years after the judge’s disappearance with Stella coming back to one of her husband’s favorite hangouts, Club Abbey, on the day of Crater’s disappearance for her annual vigil and meeting with Maria’s husband, Jude Simon, one of the detectives assigned to investigate the judge’s disappearance. From there the story goes back and forth, releasing little tidbits and details from each woman until the truth is revealed to Jude in a letter from Stella given to him before she leaves the club for the last time. The excitement and emotion is really in the details, however, with the reader being pulled along on a thrilling mystery that leaves you guessing but one that also forces you to become emotionally invested in the plights of the players with good hearts who are pushed into doing things they wouldn’t do in a different time and place. But don’t be fooled for a moment into thinking that every person involved is good or innocent. There are some vicious characters sprinkled throughout, namely Judge Crater himself and Owney Madden, the mobster who seems to be pulling all the strings. There are a number of bright lights and kind hearts to be seen, but there is just as much vice, lust and greed and that keeps the story moving at an exhilarating pace.
I was not aware of Judge Crater’s disappearance or the mystery and legend surrounding it before reading The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress but this captivating novel has me very excited to read more details and theories which, to me, is the hallmark of a great story and an equaling talented author. I’m very excited to see what Ariel Lawhon presents next.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.