The Maid by Nita Prose

The Maid makes for an almost perfect escapist read. It boasts an engaging and humorous prose, a deeply endearing main character, a fast-paced mystery that takes place over the course of a single week, and a very wholesome story. This is less of a cozy whodunnit than an absorbing character-driven tale about Molly Gray, a neurodivergent 25-year-old woman who works as a maid for a prestigious hotel. Molly’s grandmother, who was her sole carer and companion, died a few months before the novel’s events take place, and Molly is struggling to navigate the world without her.
It has its flaws: there were some very cheesy/ridiculous moments, the author’s decision not to mention neurodivergency was kind of sus, and a character who is undocumented is depicted in an exceedingly clichéd way (of course, he is ‘rescued’ by the white characters).

While Molly does find her work as a maid deeply fulfilling, to the point where she reminded me of Keiko from Convenience Store Woman, she’s very lonely without her Gran. Growing up she was always made to feel like a ‘weirdo’ and a ‘freak’, and even now her colleagues at the hotel regard her with a mixture of bemusement and condescension and are generally quite mean towards her. Because Molly struggles to read people’s body language, to ‘read’ their emotions, and to pick up on things like sarcasm etc, social interactions can become quite difficult, especially when others (mis)perceive her behaviour or responses as ‘odd’ or ‘off’.

Her life is upended when during a shift she comes across a guest’s dead body. The deceased, Mr. Black, was a wealthy man of dubious manners who died in dubious circumstances. His now widowed wife, Giselle, was one of the few people who made Molly feel seen, in a good way that is. Having watched a lot of Columbo Molly knows that Giselle will be the prime suspect for her husband’s murder, so she decides to help her out. It is Molly however who becomes suspect in the police’s eyes, as the people around her are quick to pile on her, painting her as being antisocial and standoffish, someone who wouldn’t have a problem killing someone. Molly ends up trusting in the wrong people, and while most readers will be able to see beyond their ‘nice’ act, Molly herself doesn’t. She eventually becomes deeply embroiled in this murder case, and the lead detective seems determined to see Molly as the culprit. Thankfully for Molly, she does come across people who have her best interest at heart, and with their aid, she decides to take down those who had manipulated her.
The Maid makes for a rewarding and breezy read. While there are stakes, such as Molly being arrested for a crime she did not commit, the narrative maintains a very lighthearted tone. Even if it does include abuse, bullying, the possibility of deportation, and murder. Molly’s energetic voice added momentum to the story, and I found myself devouring this book over the course of a day.

I will say that I didn’t like how no one, as far as I can recall, mentions words such as autism, neurodivergent, or neuroatypical. Almost every character mentions that Molly is ‘different’, or ‘odd’, or ‘weird’, or a ‘freak’. But no one ever acknowledges that she’s on the spectrum. Molly, herself doesn’t. Given that this novel has a contemporary setting this seemed a bit unlikely. I mean, maybe I would have believed it if this book was set during the 90s in a country like the one where I was brought up in, but 21st century North America? I also think that the way the author portrayed Molly could rub some people the wrong way as she does seem to exhibit all the classic signs associated with autism. Juan’s character was also depicted in a vaguely questionable way. The man is made to seem gullible and somewhat childlike. I didn’t care for the way the author infantilised him (i guess she wanted to stress that undocumented men do not pose a threat…but making him come across as ‘simple’ is not great). Additionally, the other maids were portrayed in a way that verged on the offensive.
Still, I’d like to think that the author’s ultimate message was well-meaning.

Molly made for a truly sweet character and I really liked to see her work together with her friends to clear her name. The mystery storyline did have a few predictable twists & turns, not only when it came to the people who were clearly scheming against Molly, but the identity of the murderer and Molly’s unreliability. But these are minor criticisms and they certainly did not stop me from enjoying The Maid. If you are looking for a quick, entertaining, and rather charming read, well, you should definitely consider giving The Maid a shot.
If you prefer more thought-provoking or realistic mysteries, well, this book probably won’t be your cup of tea.

my rating: ★ ★ ★

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