I was really worried I wouldn’t like this, and I so wanted to like this. I heard the premise (maid finds dead body in hotel room, becomes suspect, decides to solve crime), pointed my finger, and loudly ejaculated, “THAT BOOK IS FOR ME.” Sorry I used ‘ejaculated,’ I just never have before (I don’t think?) and it was calling to me. I’ve been reading too much historical fiction set in 19th century England lately. People were always ejaculating back then*.
*I could not type this with a straight face.
This book got glowing reviews initially, then a series of terrible ones, then it settled into mixed. This worried me! And honestly, I can see why some people aren’t into it, either because our neurodivergent protagonist, Molly, rubs you the wrong way, or because you are sensitive to whether or not her (most likely) being on the autism spectrum and having OCD was portrayed accurately. I definitely cannot get behind the reviews saying the book was poorly written. Maybe the style wasn’t for you, but the prose is sound, and the book was well-plotted, the characters consistent. I can’t speak for the autism stuff, but I have OCD, and Molly’s tendencies rung true to me. I was neutral on her at first, but by the end I really loved her and was rooting for her.
Of course, there is no one way to be affected by neurodivergence (it’s in the name) so I do think we have to acknowledge here that there are limitations even to an own voices review, which I don’t think this is (could be wrong). My experience of OCD, I’m sure, is similar to that of others, but no one person with the same condition is going to have the same presentation or experiences as another. For me, as long as the author seems to have approached her characters with care and respect, I’m going to be pretty generous in my reading. I nearly always prefer to go where an author is leading me than to resist. Anyway, all that to say, this worked for me! Wasn’t perfect (more below) but I read it in one sitting, and the ending made me very happy.
As for the mystery plot, it wasn’t the main thing of interest here for me, but I thought it was well done. I liked the way Prose used the hotel setting, both to set things up for the mystery, and for elucidating Molly’s character. Molly muses on rules and fitting in, and passing as invisible, often. That’s a theme that works across the whole book, and I thought Prose handled it well.
There are two things keeping me from giving this five stars. One is my confusion over where this is set, and why her grandmother talks like an old British lady from the 1980s, and everyone else talks like they live in 2019 or thereabouts. This is noted in the book, that because Molly was raised by her grandmother, she apes her patterns of speech, which is fine. But I really would have appreciated finding out her grandmother was from England, or something. Also, was this set in America? Or Canada? Some big city. Could be New York. Could be Vancouver. Who knows! Would have been helpful to know, as some word choices by characters other than Molly stuck out (Mr. Preston, for instance, refers several times to making a cuppa, which is a British thing Americans definitely do not say. Pretty sure Canadians don’t either?) It was all very confusing. The second thing is spoilers. SPOILERS I am unclear as to whether or not Mr. Preston is actually Molly’s grandfather. We see the revelation of him once being engaged to Gran through Molly’s eyes, who isn’t great at picking up on implications, and would have preferred the text make it clear whether or not he was. It felt like the the narrative wanted us the reader to be in on something and Molly to be unaware, but that’s also a dick move, because if he is her grandpa, he should tell her! If not, why the weirdness? Just tell her who her dad was! I will be seeking out spoiler threads on this posthaste END SPOILERS.
If the mixed reviews have been worrying you, too, I would suggest giving it a try with an open mind. You might end up really enjoying it.