I've said it before and I'll say it again: without the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club, I would never have picked up this book. The same is true for almost all of the books we've read, and yet I thoroughly enjoy reading every single title that Anne Bogel chooses for us. (I'm telling you, she's my book guru.)
We read The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress for our April selection and when I sat down to read the first few pages, I did not expect that I would end up reading the novel cover-to-cover. But that's what happened. The quote from USA Today on the cover of my copy says "A genuinely surprising whodunit." and I have to say that I completely agree.
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress follows three women (surprise) in 1930's New York City. One, the neglected wife of a social-climbing judge, another his reluctant mistress, and the third his hard-working maid. Of course, in the 1930's, women were often still controlled by the men in their lives. For these three women, that much is true. Even the maid, who has an adoring husband, is under the thumb of both her employers and the mobster who granted her a favor. Their carefully-constructed lives hang in the balance when the social climbing judge goes missing and suspicion is cast on every character.
I won't say anything further about the plot, but this book stood out to me for two reasons: the characters (rich, sassy, and female-driven are all pluses in my book) and the depth and layers of this mystery really surprised me. Even without the mystery component, I think I would have enjoyed this as a historical fiction novel, but that added element of suspense really raised the story to a new level. I was constantly surprised by the deception that was revealed, and I cannot claim to have guessed the culprit (though I'll admit, I almost never guess the culprit). Since reading The Great Gatsby, I haven't read much historical fiction set in this time period and I loved the detail, the sumptuousness, and of course, the ceaseless scandal.
I'd recommend this to book clubs especially (I can't wait for our discussion at the end of this month), and for summer reading lists too. There's just something about reading a good mystery by the pool, and this is one that won't disappoint. I've already put Lawhon's Flight of Dreams on my personal summer reading list.
Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5
Title: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Publisher: Anchor, 2014
Source: Personal Library