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.
Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance copy of The Maidens for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
The Maidens was one of my most anticipated novels of 2021 after loving The Silent Patient SO MUCH OMG. Michaelides absolutely slayed with his debut (clearly, look at the sales, reviews, etc.) and with that, made me an insta-fan of his writing. Unfortunately for me, his sophomore novel never really glimpsed that debut crest and ended up as a middle-of-the-road thriller.
The voice is there, his prose is there, and the premise is there. What it lacked, for me, was believable execution and characters with whom I cared about. Mariana, our main protagonist, has all of these qualities that give you almost a requirement to feel for her, but it never really clicked for me. Don’t get me wrong, her drive and motivation to get to the bottom of things is perfectly understandable, but being absolutely blind to “the reveal” was sort of a… seriously?
As far as the other characters, the were quite bland and very surface level, especially “The Maidens”. I found them rather, well, annoying and unnecessary but they were unfortunately a requirement for tricksies. Sure, they popped up randomly to misdirect, but besides being “the mean girls’ club”, they didn’t add much to the story for me. The men all just turned out to be horny creeps which was a bit… off-putting.
I think having just about every character in a story be a potential suspect hinders more than helps, because when the final reveal happens, there isn’t much of a mic-drop moment; it feels like more of dart throw. I also feel like it was a bit rushed over the course of the last few chapters, and that is while also stating that the book had quite a quick pace to begin with.
Look, I did enjoy this book for the most part and the eventual reveal was decent though not farfetched. I really enjoyed Michaelides’ setting and atmosphere, his writing style with quick punchy chapters, and the mixture of thriller with Greek tragedy. I also have to say that Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Louise Brealey did a wonderful job lending their voices to the audiobook. While Holdbrook-Smith had very few lines, the tone with which he voiced those segments was perfect and I could listen to Brealey narrate all the day long.