Updated: Feb 24
Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world you cannot fully decipher? One where you struggle to interpret people’s motives and situations? Existing in a life where you are mocked, belittled, and deceived, simply for being different? Accused of murder?
The world of Molly the maid
Molly Gray is precise and organised, devoted to her job. She loves cleanliness, she loves order, she loves exactness. Largely 'invisible', Molly carefully goes about her work as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel ensuring guests’ rooms are returned daily to a ‘state of perfection’.
Molly tends to take meaning at face value, straining to interpret expressions, finding it difficult to assess what is under the surface. Left alone to fend for herself in an unfeeling world after the death of her grandmother she is an easy dupe for the unscrupulous.
One day, when servicing the room of an important and wealthy couple, she finds the disagreeable Mr Black dead in his bed. How did he die? Suspicion falls on Molly the maid.
This is a whodunit with cleverness, meticulous design, and great feeling. We are left deliciously guessing the identity of the murderer while having great empathy for the main suspect.
The storyline nimbly unfurls
The great joy of this story is the character of Molly. The narrative has been ingeniously written so we see and feel the world through Molly’s eyes. No simpleton, simply different, Molly’s view of the world is shown in all its complexity as she navigates loss, love, and friendship. We understand much of Molly’s point of view and confusions through the baffled and often scornful reactions of others.
Molly’s grandmother is a central figure, guiding her through the mysteries of social interaction, until alas Molly feels she no longer has anyone trustworthy to turn to. Seemingly alone in the world, excited by her burgeoning romance with bar manager Rodney, horribly misinterpreting his motives, and flattered by her uneven friendship with second wife, now widow, Giselle Black, Molly finds herself taken in for police questioning. Molly’s responses in these police interviews perplex and annoy the Detective who cannot fathom her replies and misinterprets her actions.
The structure of the plot is masterly. We gradually learn more of Molly’s challenges as the crisis of the present interleaves with the heartbreaks of her past. Just when we think we have reached the end of Molly’s story there's another ingenious revelation to surprise us.
The resolution is satisfying and credible. At last a novel with a well thought out ending!
How would you react to Molly?
The character of Molly made me consider how I would behave if I encountered someone like her. Am I uncomprehending and impatient, or understanding and respectful? Do I ignore hotel staff or am I polite? As well as relishing the skill of the writing and the pleasure of reading such a well written story, the book compelled me re-examine my evaluations and conduct.
The Maid is highly recommended. If you like adroit and well-written whodunits with a real human element of well-formed characters and interesting plot twists, then this is for you.
I also listened to this on audiobook and the narrator Lauren Ambrose is excellent.
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