In Murder at Hotel 1911, the death of a hotel guest from anaphylactic shock causes suspicion to fall on hotel chef George. His friend Ivy Nichols, the hotel’s receptionist, knows the damage that this accusation could do to George’s career, and so launches an investigation. As Ivy digs deeper into the lives of the different hotel guests, she discovers connections between them, and many potential motives for murder.
Murder at Hotel 1911 is a solid cozy mystery. I like that Ivy has panic attacks — it’s a form of representation I don’t often see in cozy mysteries, and it’s also a condition that could present a challenge for an amateur detective. I like the way Keown handles this aspect of Ivy. The book talks a bit about Ivy’s experiences with therapy and medication, so that you can see her mental health situation is very much a part of her everyday life, but doesn’t take over her story completely. Ivy’s panic attacks also come into play at key moments, and I thought the author did a good job of putting us in Ivy’s shoes without overdramatizing the experience.
I also like the concept of the 1911-themed hotel. I found that charming, and of course, it provided lots of potential for the plot, with secret passages and other such cool architectural features. The big reveal was also a surprise — I didn’t see it coming at all.
My main downside for this book is that I found it too slow. It took me almost a month to finish reading it, and in the second half, I found myself skimming a bit. The investigation meandered, and while I appreciated the representation of Ivy’s mental health situation, I also felt that the novel focused too much on her personal life rather than on the mystery. In particular, Ivy’s history with the police detective, and Ivy’s realization about her mother were interesting, but a bit too drawn out. And while I found Ivy’s family connection to the house an interesting character feature, I sometimes felt like the book was more interested in diving into that mystery than in the actual murder. All these details make the book work as the first in a series, to really introduce us to the main character, but they work less well as a standalone.
Cozy mysteries also depend a lot on its characters to draw you into their lives, but while the hotel guests and Ivy’s co-workers certainly started out colourful and interesting, their personalities flattened as the story went on. Even the crux of the mystery, which is Ivy’s relationship with George, didn’t feel strong enough. We know she cares deeply for him, because she goes to great lengths to prove his innocence, and later on, there are hints of a romance developing between them, but I never really felt the heat, of either the romantic tension type of the BFF type.
Overall, the book isn’t bad, it just didn’t hook me as I’d hoped it would.
Thank you to the publisher for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.