Book Review – The Maid

The Maid
Nita Prose

This New York Times best-seller is getting a lot of press and the folks who like it really like it. As in, book club picks, and a Netflix movie deal with the main character already cast. However, readers who dislike it, really dislike it. Both sides have valid points.

Molly the maid (really) works in a grand hotel and digs her job. The order and cleanliness and restoring rooms to a state of perfection make her very happy. Molly misses a lot of social cues and people around her mostly think she’s weird. It’s never explicit that Molly is neurodivergent but Prose gives so many signs that she might as well hit the reader smack in the face with a big cartoon-style diagram that says “Autism Spectrum”.

One day while cleaning rooms, Molly finds a dead body. Comes with the job when you’re hotel housekeeping staff, honestly. And then Molly gets framed for killing the dead guy. Also a standard occupational hazard. Being the polite, naive soul that she is, with no one to guide her since her Gran passed away some months previous, Molly has put her trust in the wrong people.

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Book Review – Friday Food Fiction — Pasta, Pinot & Murder: A Willa Friday Food & Wine Mystery

Pasta, Pinot & Murder: A Willa Friday Food & Wine Mystery
Jamie Lee Scott
LBB Company, 2017

There is a whole food and wine sub-genre of mystery fiction, and it ranges from incredibly well done to rather horrific (the writing, that is, not necessarily the plot line; most of these types of mysteries and known as cozys because the murder takes place off-scene or is not described in all its bloody, gory detail). This first book of food fiction by best-selling mystery writer Jamie Lee Scott falls somewhere in-between.

Willa Friday is a food blogger and stylist who still lives with her ex-husband and his family at his Sonoma Valley winery and restaurant. Willa discovers the body of of another wealthy vineyard owner and takes it upon herself to try and find out whodunnit, mostly because she suspects the young chef she’s just hired as an assistant, whose last gig just happened to be working for the deceased where words were had before his departure.

Willa butts into police investigations (and then is pretty much welcomed by the local police chief, I’m never really sure how mystery writers get away with this bit of plot manipulation), and unwinds the convoluted story to find the killer. It’s all a bit of a leap of logic, but it’s fine if you don’t think about it too much.

While I’m not familiar with Scott’s other works, I’d offer that this first attempt at food fiction is a bit clunky. While she’s got an easy setting to work with, the transition from the food stuff to the mystery stuff is not smooth and while Scott has obviously done a lot of research into food styling and photography, details about running a blog for money, and restaurants (both front and back of house), it still feels like two different stories at various points. There’s also a lot of references (and overly-detailed descriptions) of coffee and cocktails, which begin to feel like filler.

There are two more books in the Willa Friday Culinary Cozy Mystery Series, so maybe Scott is able to tighten things up and give her characters more depth.

Having said that, this was a fun, light mystery that I finished in an afternoon, and it would be a fine read for the beach or a rainy day for anyone who likes to read about food even when they’re reading about something else.