Book review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Saturday, June 19, 2021 Permalink

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was released in 2019 and I very much enjoyed the British-Cypriot’s debut novel. In my review I talk about Michaelides’s background in psychology which allowed him to offer readers insight into therapeutic relationships. I also commented that I was very surprised by a twist at the end and – it has to be said – the same things are true of his new novel, The Maidens.

There’s less of a focus on psychotherapy here – though our lead character is a group counsellor – but it’s still very much a psychological thriller and I really did not pick whodunnit as Michaelides crafts a brilliantly complex web of intricate threads that could take us any number of places.

Book review: The Maidens by Alex MichaelidesThe Maidens
by Alex Michaelides
Published by W&N
on 08/06/2021
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1409181677
Pages: 368

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.

The blurb here is quite long so I won’t add much to it. We learn fairly quickly that Mariana was widowed the previous year and isn’t coping well without her husband.

The call from her niece (and beloved ‘ward’ – if that’s still a thing) distracts her from her grief. It probably also offers her a new obsession which isn’t entirely healthy.

I really liked Mariana. There’s a sense of something in her marriage that meant it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed but Michaelides keeps us guessing. He also introduces enough characters – other than Fosca, the enigmatic visiting American professor – that we’re not entirely sure Mariana is right in her adamance he’s the killer.

He’s kinda creepy though and his involvement with ‘The Maidens’ seems obviously inappropriate. But… is it ill-advised, rather than psychopathological?

There’s also Zoe and the members of The Maidens, Mariana’s old college supervisor, a pesky client, a younger man she’s met (by chance) on her travel to Cambridge, and a former colleague and police psychologist hovering in the background. We’re certainly not short of suspects. Some offering us a sense of unease and others perhaps falsely innocuous.

I was perhaps a tad ambivalent about the motivation behind the murders (and the way they’re acted out) here. In some ways it felt far-fetched but in others, intricately planned. I guess it reflects how easily I’d been fooled by the not-so-obvious.

This is a great read. It’s the second book I read in succession that featured mythology and mirrored some of the characters and their exploits on Greek tragedies. Mariana is also of Greek origin and brings a complicated family history into the present. This would be an interesting book club read as there are several moral or ethical dilemmas on offer and an excellent chance to engage in a clever and misleading whodunnit.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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