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Martha Grimes lives in Washington, D.C., and Santa Fe, NM.
YA‘Swirling in a fog of hints and possibilities, Hotel Paradise leaves readers pondering and replaying the story over and over again. Told from the point of view of a bright 12-year-old girl and set in small-town America, it begs comparison with Olive Burns's Cold Sassy Tree (Ticknor & Fields, 1984) and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. With her father dead, her older brother occupied with his own pursuits, and her mother obsessed by the managing of Hotel Paradise, the young heroine is ignored and adrift. Friendless except for the few adults in the nearby town who take an interest in her, she is nameless until the end of the book. She becomes obsessed by an event that occurred 40 years previously, the drowning of another ignored and unloved 12-year-old, Mary-Evelyn Devereau. When a Devereau relative is found murdered, the narrator sets out to connect all the clues and solve the mystery. Grimes's depiction of the main character's observations and imagination rings true. This book should appeal to YAs in its descriptions of family, adults, and life situations from a young person's point of view. The lack of a neat ending may be disappointing at first, but there is so much food for thought in this book that many teens will find it enjoyable and thought-provoking.‘Carol DeAngelo, Garcia Consulting Inc., at EPA, Washington, D.C.
Grimes's mystery-spinning skills take a backseat to character development and human relationships in her second, quite appealing "literary'' novel (after The End of the Pier). She etches an enchanting portrait of spunky Emma Graham, the 12-year-old narrator, an incorrigibly inquisitive girl with a love of rib-sticking food. Tethered to table-waiting responsibilities in the family's frayed-at-the-edges resort hotel, Emma's only connection to youngsters her age is her consuming interest in the death by drowning of another 12-year-old girl 40 years ago: wearing a party dress, Mary-Evelyn Devereau apparently fell from a rowboat on nearby Spirit Lake in the middle of the night. Cleverly manipulating crotchety old ladies and backwoodsy old men in her pursuit of answers, Emma discovers that Mary-Evelyn's aunt Rose ran off with Ben Queen. The recent murder of their daughter, Fern Queen, and the spectral presence of a girl resembling the deceased Rose compound Emma's quest. Emma's take on the colorful characters in her small-town world‘from the "bedeviled by silence" retarded Wood brothers to her great aunt Aurora, who lives on gin and fried chicken delivered by hotel dumbwaiter‘makes this both a provocative study of lonely people and a delightful read. The suspense is value-added. (May)
"Utterly engaging".-- The Washington Post Book World