I love stories with neuro-atypical protagonists, and I enjoy a good buddy caper. I enjoy mysteries of all kinds, I don’t mind when things get dark and creepy (think, Silvia Moreno Garcia, or Tana French). But I also enjoy something more like Only Murders in the Building – a very real murder to solve, but somehow conveying a light-hearted tone. Cozy mysteries can be lovely – but they can also veer into some tricky territory, because somehow the author has to make us care about SOMETHING else in the character’s lives as much as, if not more than, a solving the murder. I know many people thought that Nita Prose did a wonderful job with this book, but it didn’t sit quite right with me.
The novel is about Molly Gray, who does not share a specific diagnosis but is different from others in her approach to social situations. She struggles to understand others intentions regularly, and feels most comfortable in her home where she knows she cannot make mistakes (I thought Prose did a wonderful job conveying the relief that Molly feels when she walks in her own door and doesn’t have to worry about interpreting what anyone else might need or want from her). She takes comfort in her routines, learned from years of living with her tidy grandmother. She is a hotel maid at what seems to be a rather upscale hotel with a few regular, longer-term guests. When one of these long term guests is murdered, Molly – who discovers the body – is the main suspect.
Her co-workers include a handsome (but smarmy) bartender, a kindly doorman, a hateful supervisor, and a nervous Mexican immigrant. It is this Breakfast-club batch of characters that I think tipped the book from cozy to uncomfortable for me – they ultimately felt more like caricatures than real people to me. While I do think that Molly’s differences were handled well, I just didn’t think that her connections with other characters felt as honest, in part because the other characters felt very one-note.
I wouldn’t discourage anyone interested in trying a new book – there were many things to enjoy about Nita Prose’s writing, and others might find this book to be more meaningful. I had quite high hopes going in, so perhaps it might help to have very moderate expectations. I’d love to hear from anyone who loved the book – I think this book is ideal for a book club because so many people may have different reactions to it (and it’s quite quick and easy to read, another plus for book clubs).