Source of book: Audiobook from the library
I ended up listening to this book on our latest road trip, because my wife is reading it with one of her three book clubs, and needed to finish it before her audiobook loan ran out.
I think I will start this post out by saying that this book is two-thirds of a good book, followed by one-third of “GAH!!!!” and then by an epilogue of “what the actual fuck was that about - it is completely out of character with everything else!” Yeah, that disappointing.
The premise of the book is quite good. Molly is a maid at a local fancy hotel. She is pretty obviously on the Autism spectrum, obsessive about cleaning, unable to read social cues, and so on. Her grandmother has just died, when she discovers the body of a long-time regular at the hotel. Did he die of natural causes? Suicide? Or murder?
Spoiler: this is a murder mystery, so of course he was murdered.
Through a series of missteps - and some nefarious acts by others - Molly comes to be the prime suspect in the murder. Her too-trusting nature, her inability to sense when others are lying, and her non-typical reactions to events lead the police to suspect her, making it easy for the more obvious suspects to deflect suspicion on to Molly.
So far, this is actually fun. For the first two-thirds of the book, the author writes Molly as a consistent and believable character. The flashbacks to the past shed further light on Molly and the circumstances that produced her. All this is good.
Then, we have the trial.
There is literally NO EXCUSE for a published author - even if she is Canadian - getting the basics of the criminal justice system utterly wrong. And yes, I checked: the Canadian system works very similarly to that of the United States and the English system that both are descended from.
Let me make this clear:
The PROSECUTOR does the direct examination of witnesses for the prosecution. An individual witness does NOT have their own personal attorney do this for them. A witness for the prosecution is NOT a party to the case, and thus does not have their own attorney participating in the trial.
Sigh. This is so elementary that I bet that most people who watch courtroom drama television (as bad as that is at getting the details right) would notice this error right away. How did this get through the editing process? HOW?
This error alone was enough to ruin the book for me. It is sloppy writing, sloppy editing, and a total lack of…I don’t know….asking a real attorney to fact check the courtroom scenes? Seriously.
And then there is the epilogue. I am going to have some spoilers here.
The epilogue makes this huge reveal that Molly apparently knew who the real murderer was all along. And somehow, despite her inability to lie effectively, and her difficulty in compartmentalizing things, kept from everyone the entire book.
This is completely incompatible with how Molly was drawn as a character throughout the entire rest of the book. It makes no sense with her character, her sense of morality, her personality, or literally anything else. It is totally out of left field, and seems added simply to give that one final twist, make a vague feminist statement, or something. I have no idea.
Now, the thing is, if you wanted that twist, the revelation of the real murderer, it would have been easy to write that effectively. Just leave Molly out of it - she simply saw that standing figure in the room (who she didn’t recognize), then passed out. When she came to, the figure was gone. If you want, even muddle her memory due to the shock and trauma.
Easy enough, believable, and gives you that final gratuitous twist. See, I just figured out how to make this book better. Just get the legal stuff correct, don’t force a twist that doesn’t work, and you have a perfectly decent bit of genre fiction.
But the author didn’t consult me, obviously.
I should also note here that the author’s name is a nom de plume. And that her day job is working as an editor for the Canadian branch of a really big publishing company.
Which leads me to speculate that the reason that these glaring problems made it through the editing process is that the author probably didn’t have an unbiased eye review the book and check for problems. Kind of like what happens when industry “regulates” itself.
This is really a shame, because, as I said, the first two-thirds of the book was quite good - a fascinating premise, a well-drawn character, and a mystery that could have been revealed in a satisfying and believable way.
But that isn’t where this book went, which was quite the disappointment. I wouldn’t recommend it.