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The Maidens | Alex Michaelides

Following his acclaimed debut, The Silent Patient, Michaelides strikes again with another compulsive summer thriller.

Still reeling after her fiancé’s tragic death, group therapist Mariana Andros rushes to Cambridge University after receiving a frightened call from her niece, Zoe. One of Zoe’s friends has been murdered, and she seems to know who did it. Following Zoe’s suspicions, Mariana begins to investigate the charismatic Greek Tragedy professor, Edward Fosca and his secret society of female students known as The Maidens. Digging deeper, Mariana soon finds herself caught up in a toxic web of jealousy, desire and bloodlust – but who is the real orchestrator of this tragedy?

My first impression of The Maidens was that it’s clearly written for adaptation – you can almost hear the advert breaks. The chapters are short, each ending on a thirst-inducing hook that makes it almost impossible not to devour in one read. Our ‘hero’, Mariana, is immediately complex and reserved. An unwilling protagonist in her own story, which, while making her easy to sympathise with, can leave the reader feeling somewhat alone in the plot. Michaelides puts a lot of energy into diverting the reader’s attention; introducing multiple possible culprits at varying stages. This was perhaps my biggest bug-bear. Not because I don’t want to be led astray, but because each of these distractions was painted in such substantial detail that they felt intrinsically important, and yet never really achieved a sense of conclusion. They were devices, but nothing more. And as a critical reader who likes see real motive in each character, this felt like a grave disservice.

In conclusion, if you like a good thriller The Maiden’s ticks a lot of boxes – fast pace, lots of misdirection, intriguing back-story and a damaged protagonist. That said, this is definitely one you have to enjoy for the ride rather than the conclusion. If I had to describe this book in one line, I’d say Maidens is the book-club version of Donna Tarrt’s The Secret History – a compelling campus thriller that keeps you on your toes, but which lacks the depth and follow through of a literary read.

The Maidens | Alex Michaelides
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