My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
I’ve seen nothing but the highest praise for Nita Prose’s The Maid, and having finally read it, I found that all of it was well deserved. It not only lived up to its promise but more. The book was compelling, emotional and rather unputdownable! (I realise I am probably going to be repeating what has already been said but am going ahead and saying it all the same.)
Molly Gray is the maid of the title. She is twenty-five and works as one of the maids at the Regency Grand Hotel, a luxurious boutique hotel. Molly is diligent, meticulous and highly efficient, doing her job with perfection. And though not expressly mentioned, she is probably autistic. While she can do her work well, she is socially rather inept, not being able to read others true intentions or between the lines, thinking the best of everyone even when clearly not the case, and taking everything literally or at face value. Her guiding light is her Gran who has brought her up, and she helps her navigate difficult situations and make sense of things that don’t. But Molly’s Gran has died 9 months ago and Molly is now not only alone but rather lost, her job being the one thing that keeps her going for she truly loves what she does. At the hotel, with a code book of sorts for her conduct, Molly is able to feel confident and comfortable but this doesn’t prevent her peers from seeing her as a freak or jeering her or the less than scrupulous from taking advantage.
One day while on duty, Molly enters the suite occupied by the wealthy Charles Black and his much-younger second wife Giselle (one of the few who seem friendly) to find Mr Black dead. Soon it turns out that this was no natural death but murder and circumstances become such (the reader can kind of see it coming) that Molly’s position moves from just a witness in the matter to the police’s chief suspect. Now Molly must find the real culprit and prove herself innocent.
This book had me hooked right from the start and once I began reading, I simply didn’t want to put it down. I had to of course since I had 3/4ths of the book left and it was past bedtime, but the next day being Sunday, I picked it up again and literally didn’t stop till I was done!
The story is narrated in first person in Molly’s voice and I loved how it showed us things as they were and also how Molly interprets or understands them, in a way that one is able to see when Molly is trusting the wrong person or taking the wrong step but has to watch helplessly on. As one reads, one experiences all sorts of emotions–deep sympathy for Molly all through, anxiety and worry when she is in trouble, anger at those who are manipulating her or even laughing at her and joy when things begin to get resolved. Even amidst the apprehension and problems that she is going through, there are some heart-warming moments and people who truly care giving us much hope. Molly’s own outlook in life (her difference so to speak) is perhaps a defence for her as well for not being able to see the evil at least protects her from the pain to an extent (though not all the time).
The story also offers the reader many surprises and twists. There is of course the mystery itself; while there are some aspects and links that one can catch onto from the start, there are also many revelations that take one by surprise and that I certainly didn’t see coming at all. The same applies to the characters as well. From Molly’s narrative one forms a certain idea of the different characters, and perhaps an impression of what they are upto which Molly can’t quite see; yet we find that we ourselves may not be quite right either—at least not all the time. I don’t want to say too much because it’s best to experience these oneself.
Besides the mystery elements, the book also offers us a look into the world and at people through the eyes and perspective of someone ‘different’ like Molly. This exposes the world for what it is, with all its ills and inability to accept difference but also its good side in the people who understand and care, making one face these truths rather than simply acknowledging it somewhere at the back of our minds. But more than that, even for one who is sympathetic to Molly and feels for her, it makes us see that even we should not simply ‘assume’ or think we ‘know’ or understand for Molly too can surprise us with what she can ‘see’ but we can’t.
A wonderful wonderful book, 5 stars.