Sitting on the edge of seat stressed because I need to know what happens next…
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
My Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
TW: violent deaths, depression, death of a loved one
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.
Once you kill another human being there is no going back… 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, incapable of flight, a predator using its claws to cut and rip.Alex Michaelides, The Maidens
Let me preface by saying that I loved The Silent Patient a few years ago, and couldn’t wait to pick this up! I very much enjoy Michaelides’s writing style and his innate ability to keep you at the edge of your seat. The Maidens read in a very similar manner, which made for an excellent, fast-paced thriller.
With these types of books, I really enjoy reading from the “unreliable narrator” perspective. Our main character Mariana is stuck in her own grief for the passing of her husband over a year ago, and now she returns to the university where she met Sebastian to investigate these recent murders. Through Mariana’s narrative, we get to see her biases towards different suspects and the group of maidens led by Prof. Edward Fosca. This book does an excellent job of making me not trust any of the characters and also question why Mariana is so obsessed with the entire investigation and Fosca?
At the beginning of each new section, we also get to read a chapter from the perspective of the killer. Those narratives were some of my favorite parts to read and so creepy! As more and more backstories for each of the characters Mariana meet are revealed, I became suspicious of everyone around her that had matching pasts to the killer.
Overall, this book was very well structured, with a cohesive plot that forms from a series of short chapters. These chapters are short enough to keep you engaged, but still maintained the structure of the different scenes as Mariana progressed with her investigation at different Cambridge University.
Even though this was a really fun read, I had some problems with the plot and characterization that ultimately brought the final rating down to 3 stars. First, every man Mariana meets throws themselves at her feet and emphasizes her beauty, even though she’s not aware of her own looks. Okay, Twilight much? Even though I really liked Mariana overall as the main character, I didn’t like her much in scenes with other male characters. She was very much portrayed as a damsel in distress and it constantly felt like she needed someone to save her.
Second, Mariana is somehow super successfully conducting her own independent investigation despite the local police telling her not to interfere with the investigation. This was crazy to me. Mariana begins her personal investigation and somehow gets access to crime scenes and opportunities to interview every suspect. It just seemed like everything was conveniently handed to her even though she was present for the sake of her niece.
Lastly, I had my theories about the killer very early on in the book. But I thought that it might have been a little too obvious. In mysteries and thrillers like The Maidens, I like to be wrong so that I can be pleasantly surprised by the final plot twist. In this case, I was sadly disappointed because my initial guess had been around the ballpark of how the story actually wrapped up.
Overall, this was a really fun and fast-paced thriller! I had some personal issues that knocked off a couple of stars in the final rating, but would still recommend it to anyone who is looking for a spooky ambiance. As a pro tip, I would also recommend listening to this audiobook! The narrators did a fantastic job in bringing the mysterious setting to life.
If you have read this book or are planning to read it, let me know your thoughts!