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.
“IT’S A BIT LIKE BEING REBORN […] 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.”
I am one of the very few people who still hasn’t read Alex Michaelides’ debut, The Silent Paitent, so I went into The Maidens not knowing what to expect. Despite finishing it weeks ago, I am still unsure how to feel about this one.
The Maidens had all the ingredients of a hit for me; Cambridge Uni (we love some dark academia vibes!), cults, Ancient Greece and, of course, some grisly murder. Honestly, up until about the last few chapters, it was a hit. Michaelides is a great visual writer. I adored the Cambridge setting and his detailed descriptions of the historical surroundings. 85% of the novel is an amazingly dark, gripping and claustrophic murder mystery about a group of young female students brutally killed as part of a ritual. It’s a thrilling premise and the added bits of Greek mythology (extra points for Demeter, Persephone and some nods to Euripides!) were just *chef’s kiss*. Michaelides had me hooked. Everything was going so well.
And then it wasn’t. As we approached the climax, The Maidens veered off course, quickly deteriorated and never recovered. Without spoiling the ending, Michaelides decision to go manic and give us a huge plot twist finale ruined an otherwise brilliant murder mystery and, unfortunately, exposed the flaws of The Maidens. Embedded within this highly fascinating thriller are a lot of unnecessary additions that didn’t serve the story and only dragged it down. For example, Henry, one of Mariana’s patients from her group therapy sessions and who is obsessed with her, just constantly pops up. He’s irrelevant to The Maidens‘ central plot, so his inclusion suggests that he is merely there to add to the line up of suspects.
It’s such a convoluted plot and Michaelides spends so much time on red herrings and misdirection that the reveal of the murderer is so completely left field. Again, I don’t want to spoil it but the twist is also just… icky and gross. Poor Mariana.
If I pretend the final act of the novel doesn’t exist then The Maidens is a bloody great book. A fantastic murder mystery thriller. Edward Fosca is magnetic and excellently written, Mariana – who happens to be a better investigator than the actual police – is full of fire and Fred is the MVP. All that being said, I just cannot get over that ending. It was haunting… in the worst way. The Maidens finale is wacky and is the only reason why I deducted two stars. I think Michaelides is a fantastic writer but perhaps the complex plot and wanting to cram as much in as possible caused him to miss the mark with this one. Here’s hoping I like The Silent Patient more!