Updated: Mar 2, 2022
“If you’re not aware of the transcendent, if you’re not awake to the glorious mystery of life and death that you’re lucky enough to be part of—if that doesn’t fill you with joy and strike you with awe… you might as well not be alive. That’s the message of the tragedies.”
Title : THE MAIDENS
Author : Alex Michaelides
Genre : Fiction-Mystery, Thriller
Year of first publication : 2021
‘The Maidens’ is the second book by Alex Michaelides,the celebrated author of the best-seller 'The Silent Patient’ (Read my review of "The Silent Patient" here: https://www.scalpelstrokes.com/post/the-silent-patient-a-review )
As like its predecessor,this is also a psychological thriller with a psychotherapist as its protagonist. The story revolves around an all-female secret society called ‘The Maidens’ within The Cambridge University after which the book is named. Added to this is a gothic element as well, spun around Greek mythology.
Mariana Andros, a group therapist based in London is still reeling from the loss of her beloved husband Sebastian,who died by drowning a year ago.She is forced to revisit Cambridge University on learning that Tara,the best friend of her niece Zoe was found murdered there.Things take a sinister turn when she feels the handsome Professor Edward Fosca who teaches Greek tragedy at the University is the assassin.During her independent inquiries,she comes across ‘The Maidens’ ,a group of female students who were closely associated with the Professor,of which Tara was also a member.However,the murders keep happening despite valid alibis for Fosca.Things get murkier,as Mariana starts finding clues to the murderies linking them to Greek mythology.But she realises she might be endangering her own very existence as she dives deeper into the abyss of secrets....
As a big fan of ‘The Silent Patient’,I was quite overwhelmed at the thought of reading this book given the setting of the story. ‘The Maidens’ can be aptly called a gothic thriller and it has all the elements of a dark academia novel.With the eerie Professor Fosca at the centre surrounded by the secret group of female students who owe their allegiance to him,the magnificent campus and the Greek mythology are wonderfully woven into the setting which takes the reader through a fantastic experience.
Greek tragedies have always been intriguing and this is no exception.It starts on a slow note,introducing us to the protagonist,Mariana.We read about her struggles and background,steadily moving into the mian substance.We learn about the beautiful relationship between her and her late husband and understand the importance of the character Zoe.Fosca and the Maidens(named after the goddess Persephone)has been brilliantly portrayed too.
However,despite the plot and narration,I felt ‘The Maidens’ fell short when it came to the twists and the ending.Not that it wasn’t thrilling,but somehow there were too many loose threads,especially when it came to the rest of the characters.Of particular note would be the Chief Investigating officer and his team who appeared rather gawky and inept.So in the end,it felt like the author could have worked on his supporting cast a little more.
I also felt that the secret society of The Maidens could have been implored further in layers as opposed to the relatively shallow portrayal.
The end was unexpected and the red herrings ensured the same,but after finishing the book,I felt a sense of dissatisfaction in contrast to the author’s debut novel.Honestly,I also think that it was largely due to the high bar of expectations set by its predecessor.Had ‘The Maidens’ been his first venture,i am quite sure it would have been appreciated more.
Fun fact: Theo Faber,the protagonist of ‘The Silent Patient’ makes a brief cameo in a chapter!
Alex Michaelides is a bestselling British-Cypriot author and a screenwriter who is known for movies like The Devil You Know(2013)and The Con is On(2018).He has an M.A. in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.
In a nutshell
‘The Maidens’ is a good mystery thriller if you are a fan of the genre.I can vouch for the reading experience given the beautiful narration and the build up as the novel progresses.The climax might have been a tad rushed into,but it should not play spoilsport after all.As long as you do not expect another ‘The Silent Patient’,this book should be one of your best reads!
Have you read the book?
If yes,what did you think of it? Lets talk!
If not,when are you going to grab your copy?
[This Book Review was first published in the January 2022 edition of the online magazine, "COFFEE & CONVERSATIONS"