31st May, 2021

Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (W&N)

The Maidens is a book that in parts reminded me a little of Donna Tartt's The Secret History. We have a beautiful university setting, "inner circles", and idiosyncratic professors:

Cambridge, UK - A serial killer is stalking a group of beautiful women students, the protegés of enigmatic professor Edward Fosca, who call themselves The Maidens. When Mariana Andros receives a frantic phone call from her niece Zoe, a student at Cambridge, she immediately heads to her own former alma mater to console the young woman. Once at college, Mariana finds herself drawn into the mystery and decides to use her intuitive skills as a group psychotherapist to help in the investigation.   

So far so good. When the publisher reached out to me, asking if I'd like to review the book, I was immediately captivated by the plot. A campus novel with Greek mythology vibes and a mystery, all rolled into one? Oh yes, please!

I did enjoy the story a lot. While reading I frequently found myself guessing about who could possibly be the killer, and I don't mind saying that I had some the wildest ideas (most of which seemed utterly ridiculous in the end - haha). The plot is fast-paced once you get past the slightly boring beginning and the relatively short chapters make for quick reading. I loved how the author builds tension: Mariana becomes obsessed with the investigation and at times seems almost a little unhinged, which further makes the reader question what is actually going on. Essentially, it's all about the question: Who can you trust?

But... and yes, there is a but... towards the end the plot became somewhat tedious and predictable so that it simply stopped working for me. Despite the author's diversions aimed at keeping your attention away from the pretty obvious explanation, I had a strong hunch about the killer about 100 pages before the end of the book. While the atmosphere was still eerie and foreboding, the supposed surprise twist just didn't work, because it was too cliché, too predictable and too stilted for my taste. All in all, this then unfortunately turned a promising premise into a rather average story. 

While The Maidens eventually felt a bit underwhelming to me, it is still a good book. It just didn't blow my mind. I have seen lots and lots of very positive reviews though, so it might simply be a matter of personal taste. I will definitely check out the author's first book because he IS a very good writer andI haven't read that one yet. And I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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