Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

by Heather Caliendo
The Maidens Cover Image Review

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides features an intriguing premise but the final twists were pretty disappointing.

If you follow Book Club Chat, you might have noticed I’ve been let down by several books I’ve read this year (of course I have read plenty of great ones too!). Honestly, I believe it’s due to many of the books written during the height of 2020. It seems that being isolated and the disruption of normal life really did a number on people’s creative efforts, which is totally understandable. So I do sympathize with that.

I can’t say that’s exactly why the ending of The Maidens did not work. But regardless, the ending is a miss. And that’s such a bummer because I really enjoyed this one right up until the big reveal. I thought it was SO well-written, engaging and I was interested in the mystery. I do keep these spoiler-free so I won’t reveal what happens but I will give my thoughts on my overall impression of this read.

What’s the Book About

The story’s protagonist is Mariana, a woman who has lost many people in her life—most recently her husband in a tragic accident. All she has left is her niece Zoe. Mariana immediately goes to her when she finds out that one of Zoe’s friends was murdered at Cambridge where they’re studying.

Mariana becomes convinced that the murderer is the charming Greek Tragedy professor Fosca. All the students are huge fans of Fosca but Mariana doesn’t trust him. Especially when she learns that he leads a group of female students known as the Maidens, which seems like a cult of some sorts. She’s determined to bring him to justice while working to protect Zoe and the other women on campus.

But Mariana’s obsession begins to threaten her relationships and will also put her in harm’s way.

Greek Mythology Aspects

Alex’s first novel, The Silent Patient, was hugely popular. It was more your typical psychological thriller but it did feature plenty of creative twists. But The Maidens is quite different. The story is written more in a literary mystery style. I much preferred this approach than the thriller angle. BTW, if you did read The Silent Patient, two key characters from that novel make a brief appearance in The Maidens. It’s been so long since I’ve read it that it took me a minute to realize the connection.

What really makes this one stand apart is the focus on Greek Mythology. Mariana herself comes from Greece and believes that the tragedies in her life might be because of Persephone, the goddess of death. Persephone is also the big focus of Fosca and the Maidens.

There’s a ton of emphasis on the Greek Mythology characters and even some old Greek text. If you have any interest in that area, you’ll be engaged with those parts.

Using Greek Mythology aspects combined with a murder mystery made this one standout. Although, while yes, there is a big murder mystery, I feel the story is mainly a character study on Mariana and how one adapts after so many tragedies.

Verdict

But geez, the twists! I saw one coming about halfway into the book but did not see the other one. And just not a fan. When I finished the story, I had an overall bummed out feeling. The ending truly took away from the story for me. I don’t expect these stories to be that realistic but the absolutely far-fetched nature of the twists were too much.

So I’m split. I really enjoyed it up until the ending. But it’s hard for me to recommend this one because I did not leave the story feeling satisfied. Oh well. Hopefully the next read is a five-star one!

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