Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

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.

Mariana, a Cambridge alumni, millionaire, group therapist and recent widow, receives a panicked call from her niece, Zoe, who’s best friend has just been murdered at Cambridge University. Zoe asks Mariana to come to Cambridge to be with her. When Mariana gets there not only does she have to face her bereavement as Cambridge is where she met her husband, she meets Cambridge Professor Edward Fosca. Professor Fosca is widely loved by the student body due to his charismatic ways, and even has an exclusive club for female students called the Maidens, and after one meeting, Mariana is certain he is the one who killed Zoe’s best friend.

This was a so-so read for me. Not as good as I’d hoped it would be, but it could’ve been worse. It was predictable, mildly irritating but it definitely enveloped me into the story to be a page turner.

I saw part of the big killer reveal coming, which, I honestly think more readers than not will find predictable too. However, I didn’t see part of the twist coming, and was quite gobsmacked and blindsided by what transpired. 

Mariana was what can only be described as an interesting protagonist – for better and worse. On one hand I enjoyed reading her perspective because she’s a group therapist trying to help people who need someone to help them navigate their traumas, all the while experiencing her own grief, bereavement and trauma due to the sudden death of her husband. 
But as Mariana grew increasingly obsessed with getting to the bottom of what was happening at the campus, it was hard not to be completely bewildered by this. Why is a group therapist self appointing herself the heroic detective role, when it’s not her job and the police are investigating? For justice for her niece’s friend? That strange narrative is never satisfyingly justified enough by the end. Especially when she constantly did what she knew to either be wrong or she thought wouldn’t be appropriate.

Moreover it became increasingly difficult to see this woman as professional or even educated considering how oblivious she was to clear facts and how she had a serious lack of intuition the average person would possess, so naturally, that frustrated me to no end.

My favourite element of this book was its setting and atmosphere. I loved the academic setting, the secret society atmosphere and combined with Greek mythology, it was clever, extremely beguiling and definitely made it feel like dark academia. The idea of vengeful gods, the furies, sacrifices and rituals, somehow playing a part in grisly murders made me need to know what was happening.

I also liked the tie in to The Silent Patient, and despite finding that Michaelides story extremely predictable too, being reunited with Theo’s character wasn’t dull. He isn’t a central character in this story, he just pops up as an opinion consultant. 

The pace was quick and each chapter ends with a tug to keep reading on and on, so it was a real challenge to put the book down. I definitely think The Maidens is worth a read if you liked Michaelides other book, and you’re particularly into cult/mythological inspired mysteries. It was enjoyable but it definitely lacked something.

Thank you kindly to Orion Books and Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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