Sunday, March 2, 2014

My take on: The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

Judge Joseph Crater has gone missing. The hows and whys of his disappearance are shrouded in mystery. Of course there are rumors, but who knows what to believe.  After nearly forty years, his wife is ready to tell what she knows. The story unfolds in New York in 1930, a time when the social, political, and government landscape was rife with greed and corruption. It all comes together in an addictive tale, The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon.

The women Judge Crater left behind, his wife, Stella, his mistress, Ritzi, and the maid, Maria, hold the keys to his disappearance. Each woman has a compelling story of her own. To the outside world, Stella is the prim and proper wife of a "well-respected" jurist, but on the inside she knows something is wrong with her marriage. His disappearance gives Stella a new-found strength and the resolve to hold onto a secret for the next thirty-nine years.

Ritzi is the woman he takes to seedy nightclubs. Ritzi is the woman he can ply with lots of alcohol and still have by his bedside in the morning. Ritzi is supposed to be the girl that people ignore. But Ritzi sees and hears more than she lets on, and now with Crater's disappearance that knowledge could be deadly. I was ready to dismiss her character as just another mistress, but as the story unfolds I found myself changing my mind. Ritzi's story is really sad. With each chapter you come to understand why she had to get mixed up with Judge Crater and notorious gangster Owney Madden.

Maria is more than just a maid. More than anything she wants to have children with her husband, Jude, but after years of trying it just isn't happening. More than anything she wants to forge a career as a tailor, but all her boss sees is just another woman.  Just like Ritzi, she sees and hears more than she should. She could unburden her problems on her police officer husband, but he also has some nefarious ties Owney Madden. All three women could tell what they know, but all three know that could come with some serious consequences. When they are finally in one room together, it feels like there is a silent strength that unites them.

This is a fictionalized account of a real-life case, and Ariel Lawhon did a great job. I felt transported back in time. The ending to each chapter just added to the mystery of Judge Crater's disappearance. I have to liken this book to a potato chip, I just couldn't stop after one chapter.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Doubleday) as part of the February (I know it's March!!) selection with She Reads.


  1. I really liked this read. Another great SheReads selection, right? It's one of my favorites the club has chosen.

  2. Most of the choices have been pretty good. Only two or three I had to pass on. They choose well!!