Hotel Paradise (Emma Graham Series #1)

( 10 )


--Andrew Vachss

A neglected lake, covered with water lilies. A once fashionable, now faded resort. A derelict house full of secrets, uninhabited for almost half a century. The death of a twelve-year-old girl forty years in the past. And another girl who becomes obsessed with this death. With her knack for encouraging adults to reminisce, she begins to piece ...

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Hotel Paradise

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--Andrew Vachss

A neglected lake, covered with water lilies. A once fashionable, now faded resort. A derelict house full of secrets, uninhabited for almost half a century. The death of a twelve-year-old girl forty years in the past. And another girl who becomes obsessed with this death. With her knack for encouraging adults to reminisce, she begins to piece together puzzles from the past and present.

HOTEL PARADISE is a delicate yet disturbing view of the decisions a young girl must make on her way to becoming an adult . . . and the choices she must make between right and wrong, love and truth, life and death. With its narrative grace, compelling characters, and intricate suspense, HOTEL PARADISE is Martha Grimes at the top of her form.

"Utterly engaging."
--The Washington Post Book World

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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)
School Library Journal
YASwirling 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.
Emily Melton
Billed as a mystery, Grimes' latest has all the right elements: eerie suspense, creepy old houses where ghosts linger, murky lakes, deserted lanes, cobwebby memories of past tragedies, love, and murder. The real appeal of this superb book, though, is beyond genre. Grimes has written a quirky, bittersweet coming-of-age story that is as full of laugh-aloud humor as it is of the angst only a dreamy, lonely 12-year-old can feel when the world around her is ripe, promising, and full of tantalizing questions. Emma Graham, who works as a salad girl at the decaying resort hotel where her mother cooks, loves her mother's food almost as much as she loves investigating situations that stimulate her active imagination--like the mysterious death 40 years earlier of young Mary-Evelyn Devereau, who lived with three ugly aunts and drowned, silk-clad and sad, in nearby Spirit Lake. Emma pursues the Mary-Evelyn mystery with single-minded determination, and during the course of her investigation, finds answers to questions she didn't even know she wanted to ask. Emma is a delight and a wonder as she pursues the secrets behind Mary-Evelyn's untimely demise, and Grimes' delicately pithy perceptions of Emma's puzzling and wonderful world and the yearning, often sidesplittingly funny musings of a wise-beyond-her-years, one-of-a-kind heroine make for an enchanting read. One of the year's best!
Kirkus Reviews
Grimes, who's been edging away from the whodunit in her last several cases for Supt. Richard Jury (Rainbow's End, 1995, etc.), dismisses Jury completely in this crossover novel about a young girl's obsession with a suspicious 40-year-old death.

There's plenty to do around La Porte's Hotel Paradise, the small-town hostelry Emma Graham's family has run for a hundred years. Despite her youth, Emma's mother has her helping in the kitchen and waiting tables for the few customers who keep the Paradise in business. But there's not much to think about, and it's no wonder that Emma, spellbound by the recent apparition of a mysterious blond girl, fixes on the story of Mary-Evelyn Devereau, drowned in Spirit Lake when she was 12, Emma's own age. What was Mary-Evelyn doing out alone in a boat at night, wearing one of her best dresses, and why didn't her family report her missing till the next morning? Idly at first, then with a deepening passion, Emma launches an investigation into this forgotten mystery, eagerly questioning anyone who remembers Mary- Evelyn, and poring over every scrap of physical evidence she can find. Extravagant obstacles stand in the way of an inconsequential girl's attempts at detection: Barely anybody around La Porte seems to remember or care about the case at all, and they certainly aren't about to share their recollections with the likes of her. Yet Emma, as a friendly fortuneteller assures her, is "resolute" enough to endure the indifference of everyone in La Porte but Sheriff Sam DeGheyn and to interrogate a pair of subverbal brothers, call endless taxis to nearby Cold Flat Junction, and confront a newly released convict in a magical climax.

The originality here—the convention of a radically disempowered detective set against a densely imagined but indifferent world—will remind some readers of Barbara Vine, others of the Henry James of "In the Cage" and The Awkward Age. It shows off Grimes's gifts for extravagant digression beautifully.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345394255
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Series: Emma Graham Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 374,837
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Martha Grimes lives in Washington, D.C., and Santa Fe, NM.


"No, I'm not English, but nothing quickens my imagination more than a fog-bound moor, windy heath, river mist in an old fishing village, and the names of British pubs like The Stargazey," Martha Grimes has written, and it's this quirk of hers that has made her one of the best loved modern practitioners of the venerable whodunit.

All of the titles in Grimes's bestselling Richard Jury series are taken from actual pubs, and all of them feature said pub in some fashion. "I can imagine the end of British hope and glory, but not the end of the British pub," she explains. So, too, it is hard to imagine the end of these deft, witty mysteries, begun in 1981 with The Man with a Load of Mischief, featuring a lugubrious Scotland Yard superintendent (Jury) and his art-collecting sidekick (Melrose Plant).

Grimes has a particular talent for combining heavy gloom with an unmistakable humor that's as subtle and dry as a soda cracker – a good thing, since the Jury casebook tends to be dark, twisted, and rather gruesome. But she always infuses her characters with human motivations and is careful to set up a chain of clues that ultimately discloses them. In addition, she's been known to thread in an unlikely theme here and there – NFL football, poetry references, animal rights, even hormone replacement therapy.

It's clear that Grimes likes to stretch her legs a bit, bringing Jury and his eccentric friends Stateside for a few cases and occasionally foraying beyond the series with novellas, standalones, and some interconnected literary fiction featuring teenage heroines. No doubt these changes of pace help keep the author's skills sharp and honed and ensure for her a wider and more growing readership.

Good To Know

Unlike many mystery writers, Grimes does not outline her plots ahead of time or even profess to know where they are headed when she begins writing. "I am not overly concerned with plot as such," she explains on her web site. "Obviously, if you start with a chapter such as the one above and intend the story to proceed from it, you could write yourself into a corner. I always do. In The Case Has Altered, I didn't know until I was nearly finished with it who had killed these women or why."

Grimes's father was city solicitor of Pittsburgh, and her mother owned a hotel in western Maryland. As a girl, she spent half her time in Pittsburgh and the other half at her mother's hotel in a little town called Mountain Lake Park.

Although her western Maryland-set series that began with The End of the Pier has earned its own fans, there's no denying that for most Grimes readers, it's all about Jury. If she needed a reminder of this, she got one in the loads of hate mail she received for abandoning Richard Jury to write Pier.

Grimes has taught creative writing at various colleges, including the small Maryland community school Montgomery College and the more prestigious Johns Hopkins University. Comparing the two in a Washington Post interview, the mordant Grimes noted of JHU, "Not one pompous ass in the whole program ... The pompous asses are at Montgomery College."

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 2, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., University of Maryland
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

from Chapter One, pp. 3-4:

It's a blowing day. The wind feels weighted and the air like iron. As I walked the half-mile to the lake this evening, I could hardly push against this heaviness that settled on me like a coat of snow.

I have been sitting on this low mossy wall for an hour, but I can't see the Devereau house, or if there is any light in it. The woods are so thick by the spring, they blot out the other side of the lake like ink spilled across the page I'm reading. This time I brought a book; I mean to wait, though I don't think he'll be back.

I wonder now if there are mysteries never meant to be solved. Or not meant to be solved to a certainty, for I do have some idea of what must have happened near White's Bridge. I've found out the answers to a lot of questions, but those answers pull more questions out of hiding, ones I never would have thought to ask.

I think I know how Fern died and who killed her. But I don't know why, exactly. I have to guess at the why. Even if I was absolutely sure, I would still not tell the police, not even the Sheriff. Some things mean more than the law. I have not sat through all of Clint Eastwood's old westerns for nothing. Clint doesn't always hound a rustler to his grave, not if there's a reason to let him off more important than a dozen law-abiding reasons to arrest him. Call it cowpoke justice. I hear people say "It's between me and my conscience," but I think it's awful risky to go by your conscience, for your conscience can be pretty leaky. I think Clint would agree.

Anyway. That was the decision I made this morning, not to tell the Sheriff, and it weighs mighty heavily upon me. What I discovered over the past couple of weeks is that what I think is a difficult decision to make is really a difficult decision to make. And what I think is hard and painful is truly hard and painful.

I guess that doesn't sound like much learnt, but I think it is.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 4, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book. I loved 12-year-old Emma. I loved how her min

    I loved this book. I loved 12-year-old Emma. I loved how her mind works, and it works all the time. I loved all the characters she comes in contact with. I loved the atmosphere and the sense of place. This is not an action mystery, but a slow paced charmer that you don't want to put down until it's done.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2004

    Response to review titled 'CHECK OUT THE HOLIDAY INN'

    I read the sequal to Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction, before reading Hotel Paradise. I loved them both but really do consider them companian books--the individual who titled their review 'Check out the Holiday Inn' didn't seem to conclude that it was meant to leave something missing--I believe if they read Cold Flat Junction they would have their missing pieces filled it (it also is much more textured than Hotel Paradise). It felt to me that the two books really should've been one, but I enjoyed the characters, visualizations, and language so much that it was well worth the wait for the clarity that the other book gave (though their were some things left again for resolution for the next sequal). Read these books back-to-back--if you enjoy quirky characters and first-person narrative in a child's voice, I believe you will have a wonderful journey.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2012

    Loved this book!

    Not just for mystery readers, just a great story with characters you'll love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book

    How could you not love Emma? Add that to a slightly creepy atmosphere and excellent plotting. Just a wonderful read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2002

    Engaging and delightful Heroine

    This book is different from other books I have read by Ms. Grimes. And because it was different, I was almost tempted to dismiss it out of hand. But, the engaging character of the 12 year Emma (not named until the end) just kept me reading until the last page because I just had to learn what she would say next and what she would find out about poor Mary-Evelyn and Rose. It certainly left me wanting more and I was very glad to read the sequel Cold Flat Junction. I hope Ms. Grimes writes more books from the eyes of Emma. She is a delight!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2001

    I loved this book!

    I have never read a Grimes novel before and I loved it! The characters were all so belivable-I especially liked the old aunt upstairs. I loved that the point of veiw was from the 12 year old (she was so realistic!!!) My favorite part had to be the ending-this book would not have been nearly as good if it had been neatly tied up at the end, that just isn't how life goes and this story was about ordinary people living life in a small town.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Mr moseby


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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013


    Whoa....i didnt post that..m. COOL.

    I sit down on the bed with my sparrows and my dog Jump.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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