320 pages, 9.6 × 6.5 × 1.15 in
January 28, 2014
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 038553762X
ISBN - 13: 9780385537629
Read from the Book
9780385537629|excerptLawhon / THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESSClub Abbey, Greenwich Village, August 6, 1969WE BEGIN IN A BAR. We will end here as well but that is more than you need to know at the moment. For now, a woman sits in a corner booth waiting to give her confession. But her party is late, and without an audience she looks small and alone, like an invalid in an over-sized church pew. It’s not so easy for her, this truth telling, and she strains against it. A single strand of pearls—brittle and yellowed with age—rests against the flat plane of her chest. She rolls them between her fingers as though counting the beads on a rosary. Stella Crater has avoided this confession for thirty-nine years. The same number of years she has been coming to this bar. Not long ago this meeting would have been a spectacle, splashed across the headlines of every paper in New York: Wife of Missing Judge Meets with Lead Investigator, Tells All! But the days of front-page spreads, interviews, and accusations are over, filed away in some distant archive. Tonight her stage is empty. Stella looks at her watch. Nine-fifteen. Club Abbey was once a speakeasy during the Jazz age, and is now another relic in Greenwich Village, peddling its former glory through the tourist guides. It sits one floor below street level, dark and subdued. Scuffed pine floors. Black and white photos line the walls. An aging jukebox has long since replaced the jazz quartet. The only remnant is
From the Publisher
“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.
About the Author
Co-founder of the popular reading blog SheReads, ARIEL LAWHON lives in Nashville with her husband and four boys.
"Good crime stories don't stay buried, and Ariel Lawhon's new novel, THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS digs up the case of the so-called Missingest Man in New York and feasts on its bones … This case was an a la carte menu of the era's social hot buttons: chorus girls, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tammany Hall corruption, nattily clad gangsters and irritating rich people … Lawhon has a gift for lean banter and descriptive shorthand … But don't let Lawhon's straightforward style and narrative restraint fool you. This book is more meticulously choreographed than a chorus line. It all pays off. Clues accumulate. Each scene proves important. Everyone lies. Once the rabbit is out of the hat everything takes on a different texture, reorganizes and makes sense. A second reading, like a second cocktail, is almost better than the first." - The New York Times Book Review "As rumors swirl about political corruption, an NYC judge disappears in 1930 without a trace. Caught in the scandal are his wife and showgirl mistress – plus his dutiful maid, whose detective husband is investigating the case. Inspired by a real-life unsolved mystery, this mesmerizing novel features characters that make a lasting impression."--People Magazine“A gripping, fast-paced noir novel.... captures a New York City period full of high-kicking showgirls, mob-linked speakeasies and Tammany Hall political scandal.... Lawhon brings fresh intrigue to this tale, making the final outcome a guessing game for the rea
THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS
1. Many of the scandals depicted in The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress could easily be on the cover of People magazine today. We often tend to romanticize bygone eras like the 1930s. Did this novel open your eyes to the fact that the more things change the more they stay the same?
2. What did you think when Maria returned to Judge Crater’s room and took the envelope her husband had planted there? Was it a gutsy move or foolish?
3. There is a very unusual bond that develops between Maria, Ritzi and Stella. How is their connection different from female friendships today? Are there similarities?
4. The three women actually exert a tremendous amount of influence over the men in their lives, but it’s all done in a very surreptitious way. What does this say about the dynamic between men and women in the 1930s?
5. “Only fools underestimate the strength of Stella Crater.” Were you surprised at Stella’s evolution from seemingly “good wife” to ultimate power player?
6. There are some interesting counterpoints going on in the novel: Jude and Maria’s happy marriage compared with Judge Crater and Stella’s marriage of convenience; Maria’s inability to have a child and Ritzi’s unwanted child. How did these juxtapositions enhance your enjoyment of the novel?
7. Did you find the contents of Ritzi’s letter to Stella surprising? What about Maria’s role?
8. There are many real people and events woven into the storyline. Were you inspired to find out more about people like Judge Crater, Owney Madden, William Klein, and Ritzi? Who was the person who intrigued you the most?
9. Who would you cast as Stella, Maria, and Ritzi if the book were to be made into a movie?
10. Judge Crater’s disappearance remains a mystery to this day. What do you think happened to him?
PLACES IN THE BOOK, THEN AND NOW…
Club Abbey: 46th & 8th Ave. Owned by Owney Madden, this notorious Tammany Hall gathering spot no longer exits. During its heyday, the speakeasy entertained a number of violent gangsters including Jack “Legs” Diamond, Dutch Schulz, and Vincent “Mad Dog” Call. It was not uncommon to see members of the underworld sharing a drink with judges, politicians, and prominent businessmen.
Belasco Theater: 111 West 44th St. The theater is owned by The Schubert Organization—the company William Klein worked for—and is still operational today.
Billy Haas’s Chophouse: 332 West 45th Street. Joseph Crater ate his final meal here on the evening of August 6th, 1930 and it is the last place that anyone will admit to seeing him alive. The building still remains though the address does not.
The Schubert Organization , the location of William Klein’s office, is still thriving. They currently own seventeen Broadway theaters in New York City.
New York Surrogate’s Court: 100 Centre Street. This is where Stella Crater went to get the papers of administration after Joe’s disappearance. Without these papers she could not access the money in their bank accounts or tend to any legal issues.
Joseph and Stella Crater’s Apartment: 40 Fifth Avenue. This historic building is still operational and houses some of New York’s finest apartments. It is rumored that if you loiter around the building too long, the doorman will ask if you’re looking for the missing judge.
Morosco Theatre: 217 West 45th Street. Originally owned by The Schubert Organization, it was lost during the Depression and after changing hands several times fell into disrepair. The building was torn down in 1982 and replaced by the 49-story Marriott Marquis and the Marquis Theater.
Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs & The Luna Park Amusement Park: the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, Coney Island. While Nathan’s Famous is still at its original location and thriving, Luna Park was torn down in 1944. However, a second Luna Park opened in 2010, at 1000 Surf Avenue, at the corner of West 10th Street.
The Cotton Club: Broadway and 48th Street. One of several clubs owned by notorious gangster Owney Madden, the Cotton Club was the bustling hub of a major bootlegging ring. Popular for its music, the club also helped launch the careers of Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Adelaide Hall.
Maria and Jude’s Appartment: number 32, 97 Orchard Street. Now the location of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the building was home to over 7,000 people from twenty nations during the seventy-two years that it held apartments. It is currently available for tours.