If you’re looking for a simple whodunit, I recommend you go nowhere near Daniel Woodrell’s The Maid’s Version. The sentences twist around like a country back road and the book jumps around between characters in what at times seems like a random manner. However, if you’re looking for a novel with a heavy William Faulkner influence and a panoramic view of small town life, this title just might be up your alley.
The novel centers on a 1929 explosion at a local dance hall in the fictional town of West Table, Missouri that killed 42 people. The novel is narrated by Alek, the grandson of Alma Dunahew. Alma worked as the maid for a prominent citizen in town, and her sister Ruby was one of the many who met their demise in the explosion. The story hints at gypsies, Saint Louis gangsters, a fire and brimstone preacher, and others as the ones responsible for the explosion. Ultimately, finding out who caused the explosion is not really the key to the book. The Maid’s Version succeeds because you feel like you are sitting on the back porch with Alma sipping lemonade and hearing all these secrets about the town of West Table.