Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

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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.


Alex Michaelides’s follow-up to his best selling novel, The Secret Patient, starts with Mariana getting called to Cambridge University by her niece Zoe because Zoe’s roommate has been found murdered. From the very beginning Mariana suspects Edward Fosca, the professor of Greek tragedies who also surrounds himself with a group of girls he has nicknamed “The Maidens.” Of course the murder that takes place is one of the maidens so she instantly thinks that he is the killer and has a singular vision on how to get him arrested before she becomes the next victim.

There are two types of thrillers. One type is when you do not know who the killer is so you are investigating along with the characters. The other is when you know the killer from the beginning, and you’re waiting for the characters to catch up. The Maidens does not work very well on either account. The plotting and story is pedestrian and a little boring, and Mariana, the psychotherapist who is convinced that Professor Fosca is killing his students, is pretty flat and uninteresting. Periodically she gets into a psychological rant that does nothing but attempt to show off her work skills without give her very much added depth. I do like the idea of the Greek cults and the Maidens following in that tradition, but the actual story and plot just does not win me over.

Most of this is because I did not like or care about any of the characters. Every single one of the men are written in a way that makes them predatory and creepy. Fosca has his harem of college girls, Mariana has a patient named Henry who does not know boundaries and keeps showing up in a stalker kind of way. Even Fred, the pseudo-love interest she meets on the train from London to Cambridge at the beginning of this investigation keeps showing up, professing his love, and saying that they will get married, even after she tells him that there is no chance of this ever happening. There is not a trustworthy man in this whole story, and this might be to try to draw suspicion on all of them. Mariana is surrounded by all of these dodgy people, but she only wants to pursue one person with murder charges. Her vision is so singular, she is blinded to the creepiness of the other men in her life.

In the end, this is a middle of the road book. There is not much to say about The Maidens that goes either way. I am happy to have read it, but I am not enthusiastic about passing it along or rereading it. I might have to try The Secret Patient to see if this book is just a sophomore slump.

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