The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930—Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance—as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.
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.
“In this tale of Jazz Age New York, Lawhon walks one of fiction’s trickiest tightropes, creating a novel that is both genuinely moving and full of pulpy fun.…The imagined events of the novel become even more poignant when the reader discovers that the story is based on the real-life disappearance of Joseph Crater and that most of the characters were real people, like the notorious madam Vivian Gordon and the vile gangster Owney Madden. It’s a great story, told with verve and feeling.”
“Ariel Lawhon has concocted a stylish homage to noir in The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress. This fun, fast-paced novel has it all: speakeasies, gangsters, show girls, and not one, not two, but three women scorned. A real page turner.”
--Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of THE AVIATOR’S WIFE.
“A gangster’s showgirl, a wounded wife, a rich man’s maid, and the true-life, never-solved disappearance of a New York City judge, all come brilliantly to life amidst the Boardwalk Empire-like strut of Prohibition, in Lawhon’s sparklingly imagined novel. Vivid and unsettling, with a finale as startling as the pop of a gun.”
--Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW
"The 1930 disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater, one of New York City's most fascinating and enduring mysteries, is brilliantly explored in Lawhon’s novel. With its richly drawn cast of characters-ballsy showgirls, corrupt politicians, dirty cops, a scorned wife, an ambitious maid, a scheming mistress-and deftly conjured, twist-laden plot, Ariel Lawhon's sparkling and finely-researched novel will entrance fans of historical fiction and nonfiction alike."
--Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of SIN IN THE SECOND CITY and AMERICAN ROSE
"In a setting most often viewed through the lens of mobster or police investigator, Ariel Lawhon's The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress delves instead into the history of three women who understand their own power and use it to protect not only their personal interests, but at times their very lives. Lawhon's engaging style, both film noir-ish and intensely emotional, delivers an enticing peek into the political and criminal underbelly of 1930s New York."
-- Julie Kibler, author of CALLING ME HOME
"Offers a vivid portrait of 1930s New York City and an engrossing mystery that will keep you turning the pages well past your bedtime. But at its heart, this novel is a story about forgiveness--who deserves it, who gets it, and how, either way, we go on."
--Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE
“A fun, fast book with lots of dark surprises! The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress made the real world fall away, transporting me to another time and place, full of speakeasies, dancing girls, mobsters, and mayhem. Lawhon's great gift is in creating vibrant heroines to cheer for; the socialite, the starlet, the Spanish maid all instantly sparked my sympathies, and had me ripping through the book to find out how they would manage to survive the dark grip of the powerful men who populated their world. Enjoy this wild trip to dangerous 1930, and wrap your brain around an imaginative new solution to one of the mysteries of old New York.”
--Lydia Netzer, author of SHINE, SHINE, SHINE