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.
To say that The Maidens was one of my most anticipated reads of the year would be an understatement. I really enjoyed The Silent Patient and this is coming from someone who is constantly disappointed by the thriller genre. Add the exciting writing style of Alex Michaelides with a twist of Greek mythology and you’ve got me sold.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t exactly the read I was hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, it was still enjoyable but it wasn’t the soul-shattering, mind-twisting story that I expected. Michaelides creates an amazing atmosphere and his writing is quite sophisticated and lovely. He also does that thing where every character introduced has an air of suspicion around them. The red herring he tried to throw might fool a lot of people but I expected this person to be involved in the murders from the beginning. I think for this novel it was actually a mistake to make almost everybody involved in the book so suspicious because nothing would have truly surprised me. That also kind of singled out a character by excluding them from the limelight, therefore making them a prime suspect in my mind.
I will say that I didn’t expect a certain aspect and the influence of another character throughout the novel. It wasn’t hard to figure out the whole thing before the big reveal in the book, though. Like I’ve mentioned before, I am not easily duped by thrillers so I’m sure that most people will enjoy this substantially more than I did.
Michaelides enjoys using therapy as a device in his books so far and I do think it’s cool how he involves that. I also think it’s important how he used grooming to show the damage that can be done on young minds. Throughout the novel, there’s a lot of this being done and Mariana has to address it. As a therapist, she has to remind herself that the terrible things people do are often because of the psychological effect of horrors that were inflicted on them in their formative years.
I will say that for all the critique I’ve poked at the Maidens, I was captivated by the writing from the minute I started it to when I finished. It’s one of those novels that you devour in one sitting. I went back and forth from the paperback to the audio version so that I could finish it immediately, and the female narrator had a lovely voice with a crisp, clean, elegant accent. There was a male narrator that did a wonderfully creepy voice, too.
All in all, this was a darkly entertaining thriller that intertwines itself in Greek tragedies. The lush University setting only adds to the atmosphere and will keep you reading until you’ve finished. Try to lower your expectations a bit from the hype and you’ll probably enjoy it immensely. It’s worth saying how gorgeous that cover is, too.
Thank you to Celadon and the author for the opportunity to read this novel. I will still continue to pick up the books Alex Michaelides puts out in the future. Thank you to the Macmillan Audio and Netgalley for the audiobook copy, as well. Check The Maidens out for yourself on June 15, 2021 in the US and June 10, 2021 in the UK.
Trigger warnings for grooming, self-harm, drugging, murder, unwanted sexual advances.