5 star, adult

Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

People are a mystery that can never be solved.

When it comes to cozy mysteries, there’s nothing more interesting than a good protagonist to follow on their journey. The Maid is very different from the regular thrillers and mysteries I usually partake in, but it excelled at bringing to life the world of Molly Gray through her eyes. It’s really a discovery of who she is while wrapped up in a murder mystery.

Molly isn’t like the usual characters I read. I get it, she’s not necessarily unique when it comes to neurodivergent individuals in fiction, or perhaps not even the most well-done. But I rather enjoyed my time looking through her eyes. Yes, she misses cues and cannot read between the lines that are said. However, I enjoyed how that integrated well with the story and her personal growth through the ordeal at her work place, the Regency Grand. I know there are people who want to definitively know if Molly is on the autistic spectrum. It’s never made explicit possibly because she was never diagnosed in her life. I’m not here to say whether it should’ve been made clear or not. I also cannot say whether her perspective was accurate to people on the spectrum. You’ll have to read those reviews elsewhere. What I’m here to talk about is what I got from Molly’s story.

Right away, I knew the writing style and protagonist perspective worked for me. Molly loves order, and what is more orderly than cleaning? She’s made for this work, minus the fact that reading people she has to interact with (coworkers, guests, etc.) makes things a bit tricky. But that’s where her Gran’s lessons come in. I loved her relationship with Gran. Even though she had passed away prior to the events of the story, her presence is very much there through Molly’s memories and thoughts.

The story flow progresses well as we move through what would’ve been a typical work week for Molly that becomes very quickly anything but. The focus is less on the murder, though of course it impacts Molly’s life, and more on the minute changes and details she observes in the aftermath that may come useful in finding out the truth.

There are a slew of characters around Molly. It quickly becomes evident (to us at least) who is friendly and who’s taking advantage of her inability to read between the lines. It made me reflect on all these things that seem obvious to me but perhaps isn’t to everyone. Is a smile always good or do we use them negatively? Does someone saying they’ll “take care of your family” always mean something helpful or good, or can it come across as a threat? It’s just fascinating seeing such an interaction through Molly’s lens. Sometimes Very often I found myself wanting to help her figure out friend or foe before it’s too late!

The one minor disappointment here is that there’s definitely no big part that Molly plays in the mystery solving component. Sure, she’s suspected as the killer but I had hopes she would play a bigger role in untangling everything. It’s no locked room mystery if that’s what you’re looking for.

However, what I came here for (the mystery) was easily outweighed by the marvellous journey it was to see Molly grow and make new relationships after losing her strongest and only ally. It was heartwarming and delightful as we witness the woman she was becoming through this ordeal. The mystery is present and mildly predictable (well, with maybe a twist I didn’t see coming), but the star of the show is truly Molly. Who can’t help loving a book when the protagonist charmed me so very much?

If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’re in for a cozy treat.

Overall Recommendation:

The Maid delivers a riveting story following Molly Gray, a woman who sees the world differently than most of us. Her keen perception of her surroundings make her a great maid, but also a valuable asset when figuring out a murder. I loved reading through her perspective. It made the world a brighter place even when things were not going so well for her. The mystery is definitely second tier in this book, but I find myself hardly caring because Molly is the book and her journey figuring out more of the world and her place in it made my heart grow another size. It’s well worth the read!

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