Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

In 1930 in New York, Judge Crater disappeared. That mystery has never been solved, to this day. Ms. Lawhon has taken this historical disappearance and run with it, coming up with her theory about what happened that fateful day.

She tells the story from three points of view: the judge's wife, Stella; his maid, Maria; and his mistress, Ritzi. Each of them know part of the story. Eventually they all cross paths and each plays a crucial role in the events that led up to what happened, and the aftermath. Stella is suspected, Ritzi is a source, and Maria gives her only statement using a different name. Also, Maria's husband is the newly promoted detective (Judge Crater put in a good word for him, at Maria's request) who is investigating the disappearance. Stella who was fine with their middle-class life and not thrilled with her husband's grasping for the upper class, is suspected. Ritzi moved from the heartland to the big city to be discovered as an actress and instead has ended up working as a high-class prostitute for a mobster.

The book does a great job of recreating the era. The three women have distinct voices. The three perspectives come together beautifully. The crafting of the plot is masterful. It's interesting how for a long time you think you know what happened to the judge, and while you mostly do, you don't know the important details that come out in the end. I particularly liked how Ritzi's storyline ended. I think it's a fun thing to wrap up a longstanding disappearance in a novel. I enjoyed it very much!

I bought this book at Flyleaf Books, an independent bookstore in Chapel Hill, NC.

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