Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress Ariel Lawhon
Published: January 14, 2014
ISBN: 9780385537629
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Goodreads First Reads Program
Highly Recommended

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.

My Thoughts:
Really, this book can be summed  up like this:  This is exactly the book you'd expect from a book with that title.  It delivers on everything that the title promises:  a scorned wife, a seemingly (but not really) ditzy mistress, and a maid who is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It also has gangsters and bootleggers, showgirls and madams, and lots of excitement at the speakeasy, the Club Abbey.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  It had a very cinematic feel to me and I would definitely be interested in seeing a film version, if that ever happens.  Admittedly, the characters were a little bit stock and, normally, this would be a big turn-off for me.  But, in this book, it actually works quite well.

The plot moves at a nice clip and Lawhon does a good job with dispensing information as the reader needs it and not a moment before that.  Yet, in the midst of this, I never felt like I was missing any information but each bit Lawhon dispensed made the story a bit clearer. There were a couple of plot developments that I didn't quite follow, which is really the only negative I could find with this book.

All in all, this was an entertaining read that I would readily recommend to anyone looking for something fun and neither too light nor too heavy...and something that reeks of moonshine and speakeasies.

I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.  I was encouraged, but not required, to post a review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

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