Having read The Silent Patient last year – a hard act to follow – I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Maidens. A pool of suspects you love to hate and a protagonist willing to put herself at risk in order to solve a murder. What’s not to like?
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 people are saying:
“Stunning… The intelligent, cerebral plot finds contemporary parallels in Euripides’s tragedies, Jacobean dramas such as The Duchess of Malfi, and Tennyson’s poetry. The devastating ending shows just how little the troubled Mariana knows about the human psyche or herself. Michaelides is on a roll.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A deliciously dark, elegant, utterly compulsive read—with a twist that blew my mind. I loved this even more than I loved The Silent Patient and that’s saying something!”
—Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author of The Guest List
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Patient comes a spellbinding tale of psychological suspense, weaving together Greek mythology, murder, and obsession, that further cements “Michaelides as a major player in the field” (Publishers Weekly)
I travelled back to Cambridge, to its boathouses and punts, and to an elitist academic world. The setting? St Christopher’s College Cambridge where Mariana met her late husband. Coffee shops, the porter’s lodge, Combination Rooms, streets filled with graduates and rooms set in an older part of the college drop you right there. Interiors, where paper is everywhere, scribbled writing and mathematical formulae — all of which will be familiar to former graduates of the university.
With Greek mythology and psychology at its core, including Tennyson quotes to add an extra layer, grieving widow and group therapist, Mariana, sets out to solve a mystery. A classmate of niece Zoe has been murdered. She is part of a secret society known as the Maidens and an acolyte of Edward Fosca. Still in love with Sebastian — now a ghost in much the same way Tennyson loved Hallam — Mariana is desperate to be left alone to follow her investigation. Although her method begins in earnest, she is challenged at every turn. Postcards (or calling cards) depicting the sacrifice of Iphigenia by Agamemnon, amongst others, and handwritten in Ancient Greek add to the evidences she must wade through before jumping to her final conclusion.
Fred’s persistent premonitions were creepy. I would have dismissed him in much the same way Mariana did. The scene of her visiting his room in Trinity felt a little rushed and I’d like to have seen this developed more. Still, you will be inclined to keep him on your list of suspects. I couldn’t get the visual of Morris with Serena in the churchyard out of my mind. As for Fosca and his fragile devotees, I found myself getting more and more exasperated by his smiling face, and the Maidens’ supposed naïveté. He almost reminded me of Diomedes in The Silent Patient with his faint air of theatrical impresario.
I was surprised CI Sangha didn’t press charges towards the end. A slap on the wrist and a warning might not have been believable, especially if poking around in an investigation (and following individuals) amounts to stalking. But it did lend more time to the narrative. A few characters with painful pasts kept the red herrings going. Hidden layers make up the fabric of this crime and I say “bravo” to the author for his research and ingenuity. For me, some sensory elements were missing and at times I felt like an outsider looking in. It might have been the writing style which at times informed rather than evoked and I wasn’t as immersed with some of the characters as I’d hoped.
The Maidens is a gripping, propulsive read with all the hallmarks of being another bestseller. Thank you to @Netgalley and @OrionBooks and author Alex Michaelides for the privilege of reading an advance copy of this book.
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