The Maidens is a clever psychological thriller steeped in the academic atmosphere of Cambridge University and with a final twist, I only partially saw coming.
“The oracles agree, in order to defeat the enemy and save the city, a maiden must be sacrificed, a maiden of noble birth.”
I’m a sucker for an association to Greek mythology and with the Goddess Queen of the Underworld, Persephone ‘The Maiden’, teasing with ancient stories that draw a connection to a current set of events, this had me quickly engrossed in the story.
Mariana is a therapist and alumni of St Christopher’s College, Cambridge University, where her niece Zoe is currently a student. Mariana rushes to her niece’s side when her best friend Tara is brutally murdered. She needs to provide support to Zoe through her grief, all the more acute as Mariana is still reeling from the sudden accidental death of her soul mate and husband, Sebastian.
Zoe informs Mariana that Tara was a Maiden, one of a close secretive group of powerful and beautiful female students under the close tutelage of Professor Edward Fosca. A hugely popular and charismatic professor of Greek history, Fosca is suspected of being the murderer by Zoe, and as Mariana listens, she feels the need to protect her niece and investigate the crime. Mariana engages old and new friends with a steely intent to help explore what happened and gradually becomes more convinced that Fosca is the murderer. She just needs to find the evidence. What Alex Michaelides does well is to provide other possible suspects and motives, and as Mariana becomes fixated with Fosca, the little grey cells start suspecting other characters – but maybe that’s the point.
There is a different perspective listening to a book rather than reading it. As for this audiobook, I was completely engrossed, and the story had great momentum throughout. The narrator had a lovely tone and tempo that perfectly matched the pace of the narrative. The short chapters helped in so many ways, especially as I am still a novice at listening rather than reading books. The atmosphere of a prestigious academic institution was very well captured although most of the characters were very one dimensional with a specific role. The concept of the six beautiful Maidens was intriguing, and it tied reasonably well to the character of Fosca but not so well to the environment and the ostentatious display of their elitism in a place like Cambridge.
The Maidens is a very entertaining story with a brutal and chilling murderer that is clearly following a plan to right some wrong or gain something valuable. The plot is well thought out and the reference to Greek mythology is intriguing. I would recommend this book and would also like to thank Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for providing me with a free audiobook ARC copy in return for an honest review.