reviewed by Barbara Saffer
Molly Gray, who’s mildly autistic, is proud to be a maid at the five-star Regency Grand hotel, which has sumptuous features, a lemon polish fragrance, bustling activity and posh guests. Molly loves her uniform, her maid’s trolley, and her ability to return rooms to a state of perfection – as instructed by Mr. Snow, the hotel manager.
Molly was raised by her Gran, who taught Molly life lessons with aphorisms like: If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life; Never mind what others think, it’s what you think that matters; It’s what’s between the lines, not on them; The truth is subjective; Cleanliness is next to godliness; and more.
Molly knows she’s socially awkward, makes etiquette mistakes, misreads body language, and says the wrong thing at the wrong time. She’s also aware this makes her the butt of jokes among some co-workers, but Molly – whose Gran instilled confidence in her – ignores cutting remarks and carries on.
Sadly, Gran died nine months ago and Molly now lives alone. Molly is emotionally bereft and financially strained, because Gran’s nest egg was stolen by ‘a bad egg’ Molly dated. Thus Molly is especially gratified by the tips she receives from appreciative hotel guests.
One guest who’s always been very generous is Mrs. Giselle Black, the much younger second wife of Mr. Black, a wealthy business tycoon. The Blacks frequently stay in the Regency Grand, and Molly is their regular maid. One day, Molly enters the Black’s penthouse suite to clean and finds Mr. Black in the bedroom…..dead. Molly faints from shock, then wakes up and alerts the manager, who calls the police.
Molly is interviewed by Detective Stark, and the maid tells the cop the truth….but not the WHOLE truth.
Moreover, Molly is inadvertently involved in questionable activities at the Regency Grand. Molly has a crush on a handsome bartender named Rodney, who uses the maid’s infatuation for his own ends. Rodney convinces Molly that a Mexican dishwasher called Juan Manuel, who overstayed his visa, is in dire straights. So Molly lets the dishwasher sleep in an empty hotel room every night, and cleans away the traces every morning.
When Molly is repeatedly questioned by the police about finding Mr. Black, bartender Rodney gets VERY nervous. He keeps asking Molly if she mentioned Juan Manuel to the cops, and Molly keeps denying she did….because what does Juan Manuel have to do with Mr. Black?
Though there are shady people who take advantage of Molly, there are also also fine people who wish her well. For instance, the hotel doorman Mr. Preston – an old friend of Gran’s – tells Molly, “If ever you need anything, any help at all, you just remember your ol’ friend Mr. Preston, you hear?” And Molly does.
Molly is an endearing character who’s unfailingly polite, has good manners, keeps her home spotlessly clean, and loves the Olive Garden restaurant. She has quirks, but these only add to her considerable charm. We pull for Molly all the way, hoping things turn out alright and the bad eggs get what’s coming to them.
This sly, well-crafted mystery is excellent light entertainment.
Thanks to Netgalley, Nita Prose, and Ballantine Books for a review copy.