Book Reviews

Book Review: The Maidens

By Alex Michaelides

Published June 2021

352 Pages

Mariana continues to grieve for her husband Sebastian a year after his death – to the extent she can’t bear to part with his belongings.  She blames herself for his demise and funnels that grief into her career as a group therapist.  But she is reminded she has other family to care for when her niece calls from Cambridge, distraught that her friend is missing.

When Mariana arrives in Cambridge, Zoe’s friend has been found murdered.  The police launch an investigation, but Mariana feels they are dismissing information that Zoe possesses that could help find the killer.  So she begins her own search, starting with a group that the deceased, Tara, was involved in.  They are known as the Maidens, a group of beautiful and intelligent women tutored by the charming and enigmatic professor, Edward Fosca.  Mariana is convinced he is the killer, but before she can prove it, two more Maidens are killed.

Despite being threatened with arrest for obstruction, Mariana continues with her search, even as the killer zeros in on her.

I have to say, nothing in this novel turned out like I expected it to.  Hints and red herrings landed hard and fast from the very beginning, and before long, I had no idea who to trust and who not to.  Add in great subtext, excellent Greek mythology and Tennyson references, and this was a worthy thriller.  

I will admit, at one point I wondered how many odd/slightly off people Mariana could pull into her orbit.  Quite a few, as it turned out.  There was Henry, her disturbed patient who threw off serious stalker vibes.  Fred, the earnest young student with a penchant for making inappropriate declarations and overtures.  And the seductive professor Fosca, who may have been trying to woo Mariana for nefarious reasons or for his own ego.  Through it all, characters popped up who obviously knew more than they were saying.  Add in the fact that Mariana was struggling with her issues surrounding her late husband and father, and what might happen next was anyone’s guess.

As a side note, I’ve been told by a critique partner that the typical format for a British thriller is to have the MCs part written in 3rd person POV, with chapters from the killer in first person, and that was the structure this novel followed.  (If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me.)  Sometimes that first person bit doesn’t work but in this case, the killer’s chapters were journal excerpts and could have been written by anyone in the novel, which definitely upped the tension for me.

For most mysteries I read, probably to the tune of 80 – 90%, I’ve figured out who the killer is before the ending.  In many cases, I’ve sussed out their motives as well.  Not in this novel.  When the killer and their motive was revealed, well, I just didn’t see it coming. 

Well played, Mr. Michaelides.  Well played.

I rated this novel 4.5 stars.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐+

Do you have a favorite thriller or mystery author?  I’m always looking for more – drop them below!

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.

“The Maidens” as interpreted by Wombo Dream

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