Author: Nita Prose
Genre: Murder Thrillers
Year Published: 2023
“Nerdection Worth to read”
There’s a certain unwritten rule of any good mystery story: the butler (or the maid, in this case) always did it, or, at the very least, had something to do with it. It might seem almost like a cliché by now — and that’s mostly because it is — but there’s a reason why this trope has endured for so long in the history of the mystery genre.
As Nita Prose puts it in the very first sentences of The Maid, the job of a good maid is to be virtually invisible — and yet, perfectly conscious of her surroundings. You might think that no one knows your secrets, but some people always know the skeletons you hide in your closet.
This debut novel provides a light read with a familiar and, for lack of a better word, cozy murder mystery at its core. The Maid never challenges its reader, managing to remain entertaining almost all the way through. Depending on how much you’re willing to forgive a disappointing ending, The Maid is the perfect novel for a fast-food-style murder mystery novel.
Spoiler-free Synopsis of The Maid
As the title implies, The Maid follows a rather unassuming maid called Molly Gray. Unlike most maids, however, Molly loves her job — well, it would be best to say that she adores being a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. This is the job of Molly’s dreams, and she takes it quite seriously. She sees the uniform as an extension of her own self, even as an “invisibility cloak.”
For someone like Molly, being invisible is a true blessing. Despite her love for the job and her positive disposition, Molly is a terrible peoples person. She has a tendency to take things at face value, which often leads to her misreading basic social cues and complicating situations more than necessary.
Molly’s love for being a maid is only matched by her love for her deceased Gran, the woman who taught her everything she knows about being a good maid. Nine months after her passing, Molly goes to work as usual. What she finds, however, is a rather unusual scene — one that will forever change the strict set of rules that govern her life.
During one of her shifts, Molly finds one of the guests, Mr. Black, dead in his room. With no other suspects in sight, Molly immediately becomes the prime subject of this heinous crime. Thankfully for her, the very strict set of life rules that guides her every action will probably save her in this criminal investigation, as long as she manages to not make things even more complicated for her.
What follows after this is one of Molly’s most hectic weeks in the prestigious Regency Grand Hotel. From seedy characters to the uncovering of a secret drug ring, The Maid surprises its readers every step of the way.
That said, with a protagonist as clueless as Molly, how can we tell who is going to solve every aspect of this complex crime — one where the reader might be ready to pinpoint the killer’s identity in the first few pages of the novel?
Let’s Talk About Molly
Usually speaking, in these reviews I’d begin by taking a closer look at the overall plot of the book. However, in the case of The Maid, I think it would be better if we briefly analyzed just who Molly is. There are many reasons why I believe that, at least in this book, the main character is much more important than the mystery at hand.
First of all, there’s a lot of talk going on from fans of the book calling Molly “neurodivergent,” or saying that she’s “on the spectrum” hinting that Molly might be an autistic person. Nita Prose, the author of The Maid, has hinted that that might be the case, but the words “neurodivergent” or “autistic” are never mentioned in the book.
It’s clear that Molly doesn’t think as most people do — neither did Sherlock Holmes. I believe that letting the reader come to the conclusion that Molly might be on the spectrum — rather than just flat-out mentioning it as a selling point for the book — is the best decision Prose could have ever made. It helps to make Molly feel more like a real person rather than a marketing ploy — it also frees her of any unnecessary labels that would have made the character much less relatable.
The other reason why I wanted to address Molly’s character before tackling the book’s plot is that, at its core, the mystery presented in The Maid is one of the most transparent ones ever written. Any reader who has ever held a mystery novel in their hands will immediately guess who the killer is. However, that is not the main concern of The Maid: what we’re here to see is not “whodunnit,” but how Molly reacts to the whole mystery and the characters involved in the narrative.
However, there’s a downside to Molly’s character that might irk some readers. Her innocence and lack of social skills might seem like endearing traits in most situations, but they can severely impact the overall tone of the story in some places. Sure, The Maid was never meant to be a completely serious crime drama, but I can’t help but believe that there are some parts that feel like straight out comedy. This wouldn’t be too bad on its own, only that the comedy in this book is often hit-or-miss.
In the end, The Maid feels more like a character study rather than a murder mystery. The crime is there only as a catalyst to guide the reader through Molly’s growth. The only issue I had with this idea is that the mystery can feel downright superfluous, with some characters becoming borderline caricatures of themselves when the plot so needs it.
Your enjoyment of the book will depend on how much you like Molly’s quirkiness in the very first pages of the novel. If you feel like her straightforwardness and frequent mentions of her Gran are not your cup of tea, then you won’t find much else to like about the rest of The Maid.
Meet the Rest of the Cast
The story of The Maid is told in the first person, with Molly serving as the book’s somewhat unreliable narrator. Since our dear maid can hardly understand some social cues, and we see the rest of the cast through her eyes, some of the cast can be a bit difficult to read.
However, I’m pleased to say that the characters are among this novel’s greatest strengths. Even if we see them through Molly’s eyes, each of them is wonderfully crafted — most of the time, at least. There’s a particular character involved with the drug ring (whose name I won’t mention to avoid any possible spoilers) who acts in a way that can only be described as “cartoony.”
The rest of the cast is, essentially, what you would expect in a game of “Clue.” They serve their roles perfectly in this unusual game of whodunnit — which is being red herrings for the reader to try and guess who killed Mr. Black. Even the names are reminiscent of the classic game of criminal investigations, even if the rest of the mystery is not.
As I mentioned earlier, the mystery can be solved in the very first pages of the book. The only reason why the murder isn’t solved as soon as Molly finds the body is because of her awkwardness and her strict set of rules. However, for the reader, piecing together what happened shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, especially after considering that a certain character is clearly the only one with a motive to kill Mr. Black.
If you like light mysteries full of quirky characters and entertaining situations, then you’ll find plenty of things to enjoy in The Maid. That said, don’t expect to find Sherlock Holmes’ next case here, not even close.
Writing and Prose
With her background as a long-time publisher, it’s no surprise to see that Nita Prose hits all the right notes with her writing. Not once does the reading feel tedious or heavy — this is an ideal book to carry with you during long travels or for occasional reading for your daily commute.
I’m not a fan of stories told in the first-person, but it makes perfect sense in a story such as The Maid. As we established before, this is Molly’s story first and foremost, so it makes sense that we spend all of it living in her head.
Worth a Read?
Yes, though your enjoyment might vary depending on how much you like Molly as a character. The mystery at the center of the whole book can feel a bit shallow at times, but there’s no denying that The Maid has a unique charm that makes it a book that’s very hard to put down once you start reading.
About The Author of The Maid
Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean. [Good Reads]
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