The Maid, by Nita Prose

Even if everything else in her life is not great—recently deceased grandmother, no boyfriend, behind on rent—Molly Gray loves her job as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. As a maid, Molly returns rooms and suites to a “state of perfection.” Putting rooms to rights is deeply satisfying to this neurodivergent protagonist of The Maid, by Nita Prose. She muddles along at the Regency until the morning that she walks into one of the priciest suites to discover a wealthy guest dead in his bed.

There is no shortage of suspects in Mr. Black’s murder. He’s a ruthless businessman (legal and illegal) who treated both his wives poorly. Unfortunately for the police, there is very little evidence to point to the real killer. And it turns out that the murder isn’t the only crime happening at the Regency. Molly winds up enmeshed in both cases through being at the wrong place and the wrong time and through trying to do favors for people who are kind to her.

Molly has a few things going for her as an amateur detective. She grew up on reruns of Columbo and is keenly observant of her surroundings (always looking for dirt and things out of place). And there’s her job as a maid. A lot of people in Molly’s world overlook her; she’s invisible. She picks up on a lot of things that no one meant for her to see and hear. Her downfall, however, is that she’s too trusting of grifters who take enough care to mask their real thoughts and motives from Molly. (There were several parts of this book that made me cringe, as other characters mock Molly’s literalness.) Thankfully, there are people in her life who watch out for her and step in when events start to spiral out of control.

The Maid breaks a lot of the “rules” of the mystery genre. It doesn’t follow the usual structure; instead, it just races along, getting increasingly complicated, until Molly and her allies are able to turn the tables on the real villains. Molly makes mistakes (unlike many of the too-perfect amateur detectives out there). She also has an unexpectedly nuanced code of ethics, which I really enjoyed. And, lastly, the end of the book doesn’t set Molly Gray up for a series of adventures at the Regency Grand (at least, I didn’t think so). The conclusion and epilogue to the book are more like Molly’s cleaning routine than what I usually see in this genre. Rather, they set things to rights like a well-cleaned hotel room.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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