Fifteen-year-old orphan Charlotte O’Dell leaves her Victoria, British Columbia, home to waitress at the St. Alice Hotel on Harrison Lake in 1908.
She soon makes friends with Mr. Jacob Doyle, an older male guest, who prefers her to bring his breakfast and asks her to play chess with him. While this favoritism annoys the housekeeper, Mr. Doyle is a regular visitor, and she must keep him happy. When he passes away under mysterious circumstances, Charlotte becomes the subject of a murder inquiry. She soon finds out who her real friends are, as the detectives are more interested in closing the case quickly than identifying the real murderer. Charlotte has to both save herself and honor the good friend she’d made. While the book takes a while to set the scene before the mystery truly begins, subplots keep things moving forward, albeit slowly, with everything being wrapped up very quickly at the end. Character development is minimal. Historical details, such as the suffragette movement and black-and-white photographs of the original St. Alice Hotel, add novelty and interest. Major characters are white; First Nations people briefly appear, wearing beads and paddling a canoe, as do Chinese immigrants, one of whom refers to malaria as an African disease although most Chinese in Canada at this time originated in regions where malaria was endemic.
A short, accessible mystery for readers who enjoy a leisurely pace. (Mystery. 12-16)