Hotel No Tell by Daphne Uviller
Imagine my excitement when Daphne Uviller’s follow-up to 2009’s Super in the City, Hotel No Tell, finally arrived in my mailbox, fresh from the States, this Wednesday! Ms. Uviller’s writing has been growing on me since Super, so I was in quite the state of anticipation by the time Hotel finally made its way across the pond to me.
Hotel picks up about three years after the end of Super and features the same cast of characters (as well as some new additions) led by the plucky and totally awesome Zephyr Zuckerman. She may be clumsy, nosy, and in need of a support group to get her dressed in the morning, but Zephyr is also, perhaps because of the above traits, extremely relatable and huge fun to be around. Despite her ineptitude at detective work (her new job in Hotel), you still root for her the entire way and desperately hope that everything from the novel’s central mystery to her love life will work out. And because Ms. Uviller is a fan of neatly tied-up endings, I am happy to report that it all does.
Most of the things that make Hotel such an enjoyable read are the same elements that made Super equally good fun. Ms. Uviller’s writing style remains perfectly on-pitch, carefully walking the line between perky, funny, and plain old smart. Ms. Uviller’s evident intelligence also helps Hotel rise above common rank and file “chick lit” (as much as I hate to categorize it as such, I fear it doesn’t fit in any other genre more readily!). Not only does the book sympathetically tackle the heavy question of whether to have children or not, among other modern procreation quandaries, the book also provides a wonderfully understated defense of atheism and, as in Super, probes the mixed blessings of both singlehood and coupledom. Ms. Uviller recognizes the lack of cookie-cutter answers for any given life problem and has a real gift for creating realism in her books, both in terms of their setting (again like Super, Hotel is a positive love letter to Greenwich Village and New York) and the feelings of her characters. Not once does a conviction or thought not ring true, even when its one of Zephyr’s more fleeting ones.
The only thing I wasn’t particularly wowed by was the mystery at the heart of the story. With Zephyr now working as a detective, of course she needs something to detect so Ms. Uviller has her go undercover at the Greenwich Village Hotel to try and sort out what appears to be an embezzlement scam. Unfortunately, as soon as Zephyr gets there, the case immediately becomes more convoluted than anyone imagined and a reader may be forgiven for getting a bit lost in its twists and turns. Everything is eventually made clear, but the steps taken by Zephyr along the way and the information uncovered aren’t always easy to follow.
But, honestly, in no way does the mystery drag the rest of the story down nor did it lessen my enjoyment of the book at all. It is Ms. Uviller’s characters and writing style, rather than her plotting, that have always enchanted me and both rise to the occasion in Hotel. So if you’re looking for something quick, fun, and smart, find a copy of Hotel and head out into the summery sunshine to enjoy it. You won’t find a book more perfect for the task at hand.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I received a promotional copy of this book, but this in no way affected my reading of it or reaction to it. I’d been looking forward to this one for ages before I was given a copy, so if I was a little biased going in, it certainly wasn’t the publisher’s fault!