The Maidens

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides is a run-of-the-mill thriller. Following the same narration style as Michaelides’ first book, therapist Mariana is attempting to solve several murders.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister.

And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

“I feel in control now, writing this. At this moment in time, I am calm, and sane”.

Absolutely full transparency here, I loathed The Silent Patient. It was the first audiobook I ever listened to in full and returned. I have friends who bring this book up just to see how long I can go on a tangent. With this disclaimer, I wanted to read The Maidens and give this author another chance. The Maidens is a bit of a slow burn, dark academia thriller. This feels confusing, as there is tension and suspicious characters from the beginning of the book. However, it still felt a bit…slow. I don’t mean the tension or the action- I simply mean the excitement around the story and mystery.

“Something Beautiful, something holy, had died. All that remained were the books he read, the clothes he wore, the things he touched. She could still smell him on them, still taste him on the tip of her tongue”.

Mariana is frustrating to read. She is cold and detached, saving all of her feelings for the grief around her husband. Grief is a difficult thing to write, and Michaelides seems to enjoy writing it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it comes across as well done, however, and I didn’t enjoy reading it from Mariana. Alternatively, her niece Zoe is odd and shines a red flag every time she speaks. This is overshadowed by the fact that Mariana is suspicious of every man that is brought up in this book- except her dead husband. The hyper-focus and blatant evidence planting are clear, this book is heavy with red herrings.

“Once you kill another human being, there’s no going back.

I see that now. I see I have become all together a different person.”

The writing was fine, the characters were flat, and the story ended similarly to how the Silent Patient begins. I’m unsure if this was a nod to the case in the Silent Patient, or if the author fails to wrap crimes up in any other. Spoiler here: sending every woman to a mental health facility because she’s decided to silence herself is boring. That’s it. I wanted to genuinely enjoy this and went in with high hopes. I should have known better, knowing I don’t enjoy this author’s plots.

“It’s a bit like being reborn, I suppose. But no ordinary birth— it’s a metamorphosis. What emerges from the ashes is not a phoenix, but an uglier creature: deformed, and capable of flight, a predator using its claws to cut and rip”.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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