The Mystery Guest By Nita Prose

Closing the book on January…

Was this the longest shortest month? I feel like January took forever but now I’m slightly shocked we’re almost into February! What certainly did help was escaping into The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose… what a delightful whodunit! I haven’t read a murder-mystery maybe ever that I enjoyed as much as this one. It somehow was a light-hearted and charming thriller, and I just adored the main character Molly (she is such a gem!) and how true she stayed to herself as her story unfolded. As Gran tells us in the book, “One foot in front of the other. It’s the only way to get anywhere in this life.” I can’t wait to hear what you thought about this clever, heartwarming mystery!

the mystery guest book club questions
Livraria Lello bookstore, Portugal

I’m also super excited Nita agreed to chat with us about the impetus for her book, Molly as a character, what’s on her nightstand, and (spoiler alert!) what’s ahead for her and her readers. All the details from the author herself below!

And here’s a full book club kit from the publisher, complete with a note from the author and even a recipe for tea and biscuits! Also, Nita has a newsletter you can sign up for here, which is so fun. And be sure you are signed up for the Ashley Brooke Book Club newsletter… we have some really fun exclusives that are sent out regularly, more here!

Behind The Book (Author Q&A)

About The Author

Nita Prose is the author of The Mystery Guest and The Maid, which has sold over 1 million copies worldwide and was published in more than forty countries. A #1 New York Times bestseller and a Good Morning America Book Club pick, The Maid won the Ned Kelly Award for In­ternational Crime Fiction, the Fingerprint Award for Debut Novel of the Year, the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Barry Award for Best First Mys­tery, and was an Edgar Award finalist for Best Novel.

Follow Nita on Instagram here!

Q: We just adored The Mystery Guest! Did you always know Molly would be facing more hijinks after you introduced her to us in The Maid?

In fact, I did not! I didn’t plan the first book as a series, but when it was clear the book was successful, I was hearing from my publishers that they wanted more. But that’s not what convinced me to write more. What convinced me were the readers, and when readers were flooding me with pleading emails asking for “more Molly,” I had a good, long think about whether I could actually write more about her. I had to consider if there was a way of writing more but not giving less.

We’ve all read those series where the subsequent books don’t quite live up to the promise of the first book, and I didn’t want to do that injustice to my protagonist or my readers! But after a long think, I found a way forward, and I tried a second book, vowing to myself that I wouldn’t publish it unless it lived up to the first. In the end, I felt I did okay and decided to let readers see it and be the judge! I’m happy with the results, and I hope you are, too!

Q: Speaking of Molly, she is such an endearing character. Where did you draw your inspiration from to create her and her storyline?

The idea for Molly hit me like a lightning bolt. I was on a business trip to the UK in 2019 when I left my hotel for a meeting and returned around 10 a.m. When I opened the door to my room, I surprised the maid who was cleaning it. She gasped and jumped into a shadowy corner–I’m sure most guests are long gone by 10 a.m. She was holding my jogging pants, which (embarrassingly) I’d left in a tangled mess on the bed. It occurred to me then what an intimate and invisible job it is to be a room maid. Simply by cleaning my room day after day, she knew so much about me. But what did I know about her?

A few days later, I was on the plane home when it came to me: my protagonist Molly’s voice–clear, distinct, precise. I grabbed the napkin from under my drink and wrote the prologue in a single burst. I didn’t know it then, but I’d just begun my debut novel.

Q: To be honest, we don’t usually choose whodunits for our book club. But this story felt so fresh and uplifting even with the murder-mystery backdrop! Was that the intent?

That was the intent. The mystery genre is the engine of the book, but actually, this is more voice-driven than it is a hard-boiled procedural. In fact, the entire world is hyperreal, something you’ll never see in a police procedural.

Q: Were there any scenes or characters you wrote for The Mystery Guest that didn’t make the final edit?

Very few! In fact, the few I cut ended up back in it, as my editors wanted “more Molly.”

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been an editor in major publishing houses for twenty years, so writing has actually been a massive part of my job for years. What I didn’t know was that I would turn my hand to writing a novel myself instead of helping others do so. I had the inkling it would happen at some point, but when I got the idea for THE MAID, I decided to give it a real try.

Q: What are you reading right now?

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver and Holly Jackson’s The Reappearance of Rachel Price (which hasn’t published yet—I have an early copy).

Q: What’s next on the horizon for you?

I hope readers will be pleased to hear that I have another Molly book in store for this year. It should release this October, and it will have a holiday theme—let’s just say that Juan Manuel features heavily in this new and hopeful mystery… After that, there will be one more big, closing Molly book that will finish off the series … and all will be answered! 

Thank you, Nita! We are so excited for more Molly this fall!

The Mystery Guest Book Club Questions

I love diving deeper into the books we read, and below are a few questions I was thinking about when reading. Feel free to answer in the comments below, over on the Ashley Brooke Book Club Instagram or with your IRL bookish friends.

1. Were you able to solve the mystery as you read? Was the suspect on your radar as the story unfolded?

2. Throughout the story we visit Molly’s past and it helps inform her future. Did you enjoy the narrative jumps and learning more about Gran and Molly’s relationship?

3. Did the ending surprise you? What do you think is next for our heroine, Molly the maid?

This was such a clever whodunit brimming with heart. Here’s what to read next for a similar vibe… A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales, Mastering The Art Of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge, or To Have And To Heist by Sara Desai.

And check back in a few days for our next Book Club pick! I really think you’ll love it.

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  1. 1. Were you able to solve the mystery as you read? Was the suspect on your radar as the story unfolded?

    I really didn’t have it figured out until right around when Molly did. The book society members did seem suspicious from the beginning though so that it ended up being one of them wasn’t terribly surprising.

    2. Throughout the story we visit Molly’s past and it helps inform her future. Did you enjoy the narrative jumps and learning more about Gran and Molly’s relationship?

    Yes- I love the switch because it helps the reader understand Molly so much better.

    3. Did the ending surprise you? What do you think is next for our heroine, Molly the maid?

    The ending seemed just right. I LOVE Molly so I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her. I can’t decide if I want her to make a career switch or not…I just hope she has a happy ending, whatever she decides to do.

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