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“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.
Lawhon's disappointing debut novel reimagines the 1930 disappearance of justice Joseph Crater, an unsolved crime that fixates armchair detectives to this day. Set among the speakeasies and society soirees of Jazz Age Manhattan, the story also winds its way through the cramped tenements of the Lower East Side and goes behind the scenes of Broadway spectaculars. One August night, Joseph Crater leaves Club Abbey, a speakeasy owned by notorious gangster Owney Madden, and is never seen again. There are rumors of political corruption and shady connections with the criminal underworld, but the story centers on three women in his life his wife, Stella; his mistress, showgirl Ritzi; and his maid, Maria. The three of them, all severely affected by his disappearance, must deal with the unexpected consequences, while trying to decide if there is a chance that he might still be alive. Stella hides in her Maine vacation home to avoid being harassed by police detectives and journalists. Ritzi shoulders a grueling life that is nothing like the glamorous starlet's existence that she dreamed of. Maria, whose husband is a detective assigned to the Crater case, works on starting a family while managing two jobs. These women do everything they can to protect themselves and their families from the malevolent men who let nothing stand in the way of them and their money. A fascinating story, but rendered colorless by its lack of momentum and stock characters.