Author: Nita Prose
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022 (read Mar. 2022)
The Maid was my Book Club’s pick for March. I admit I wasn’t super enthused for it because mysteries aren’t generally my favourite, but it had good early reviews, so I was intrigued. Unfortunately, very little about this book worked for me and it was not popular in our book club discussion.
The Maid tells the story of Molly Gray, a young 20-something woman raised by her grandmother and working at an upscale hotel as a maid. In her work, Molly mostly blends in with the shadows, but when she discovers one of the hotel guests dead in his bed, she is catapulted into the limelight and her awkward social demeanor makes her one of the prime suspects.
Let’s start with talking about the writing style. It wasn’t my favourite, but it reminded me a bit of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, with less charm. It’s never stated outright, but Molly struggles with how to interact in social situations and I think the reader can assume she likely falls somewhere on the spectrum. Her grandmother played a large role in helping Molly navigate the world, but has recently passed, leaving Molly struggling both socially and financially. As the protagonist, I thought the writing style suited Molly’s voice, but sadly the characterization and storytelling were lacking.
Molly grows a lot throughout the novel, learning about herself and others around her as several new people enter her life to help her through the police investigation. But while she supposedly grows as a person, her growth didn’t feel organic or natural to me. The entire story happens in the span of 5 days and was too neatly packaged for me to buy into it. Molly has struggled her entire life with social interactions and suddenly at the climax she has all these revelations about how other people react. I thought this to be super unlikely if she has struggled her whole life with reading people and I didn’t think it was a particularly good message, as if people on the spectrum can suddenly change the way they see and interpret the world.
But my biggest problem with the book is that the plot is just not very sophisticated. For a mystery novel, I found it to be incredibly boring. I wanted the mystery to be clever and have lots of twists and turns, but the author reveals almost everything to us upfront! It’s clear that there’s something sinister going on in the hotel, we don’t necessarily know who the murderer is, but we know who the key suspects at the hotel are, so it’s not a stretch to see where the story is going. Arguably there are a few twists towards the end of the book, but even these fell flat to me. So before I get into discussion about this in the spoiler part of my review, I’ll just say that I wouldn’t recommend this book because unfortunately it’s lacking in both plot and characterization.
Okay, now for SPOILERS.
What drove me nuts at the end is that this whole book is marketed and sold as a “closed door mystery novel” reminiscent of Agatha Christie. People love these kinds of books and it’s a great premise. So WHY IN THE WORLD is the murderer not someone from inside the hotel! It’s such a cop-out and just read like lazy writing to me. The author hands us Rodney and Giselle on a silver platter as suspects in the drug scheme at the very least, but even if they didn’t commit the murder, there were still lots of other suspects – from the hotel manager, to Cheryl, to Juan Manuel, to the other maids, and of course, even Molly. I was just flat out annoyed that the author decided to make the murderer someone from outside the hotel. It’s disappointing and it’s not clever. I could understand why Molly would want to protect Giselle (if she was the murderer), but I really don’t see why she would protect Ms. Black. She had no reason to keep this information secret.
Then there’s the unnecessary twist near the end where Mr. Preston appears to reveal that he is Molly’s grandfather?! It wasn’t totally clear to me if this was the case, but I don’t think it added much to the novel and it actually, if anything, made me more sad because it means Mr. Preston likely only ever wanted to help Molly because she was his granddaughter and not just because he happened to like her. Also the whole lawyer bailing Molly out of jail thing seemed super unlikely to me.
Finally, my friend at book club brought up an excellent point about the very end – why on earth was Charlotte questioning Molly on the stand? Molly was no longer a suspect, she was only a witness, so she would have been questioned by either the prosecution or the defense (for Rodney), neither of which Charlotte was likely to be representing. It’s a small detail, but it does highlight the lack of forethought that seems to have gone into the novel. I just didn’t think the plot was sophisticated enough. It was too easily resolved and the character growth too easily realized. It had the potential for a good story, but sadly, I just don’t think this author is there yet.
So 2.5 stars from me – not a favourite, nor would I recommend.