Title: The Maidens
Author: Alex Michaelides
Format: Audiobook, read by Louise Brealey and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Available in physical books, audio book, or ebook
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.
What I Loved
When I read the pre-release description of this one, I was so excited to pick it up! It has seemingly everything a dark academia, gothic horror loving reader could want: secret societies, roguish professors, Greek mythology, a murder mystery. The setting was really intriguing to me and the concept that the protagonist was a group therapist who would be somehow sucked into the murder plot involving a secret society seemed promising.
Unfortunately, that’s about it for what I loved about this one.
What I Didn’t
The Maidens really didn’t follow through on any of the promising premise in my opinion. The murder mystery included so may red herring suspects that it failed to provide enough grounded reasoning for the surprise identity reveal. The absolute shambles of an “investigation” that the authorities were doing was so unconvincing. Our protagonist found herself included on suspect interrogations and getting information from the crime scene that would never be allowed. And I get that a lot of the tropes of these types of thrillers include subpar police work and a would-be detective stepping in, but this just went too far.
The alternating POV chapters were included about 90% of the protagonist and 10% of a mystery man that was obviously not a mystery by about a third of the way into the book. Figuring out that plot point led to the rest of the big twist being less impactful. The dialog throughout was so over the top.
The biggest miss for me was the titular Maidens. There was such promise to this idea of the secret group of young women who follow a smarmy professor. But we don’t even meet the group until so far into the book, I had to double check I downloaded the right audiobook.
“Reading about life was no preparation for living it.”
Overall, I was really disappointed in this one, especially after seeing rave review after rave review. Maybe I’m too attached to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but it felt like a poor imitation of that book to me. The dialog was so overwrought and melodramatic, the ending was a let down, and the structure of the chapters was off-putting. I just really didn’t care for this one.
I have heard great things about his first book The Silent Patient. Maybe I will try that one out and see if it is any better. I would love to include some spoiler content and maybe further explain my feelings on this book. Would anyone be interested in that? More of a book review conversation?
Do you totally disagree with me? Let me know below!