“The Maidens” book review


Abby Lincks

VHS’s book club dove into the horror/thriller genre, including “The Maidens”

Abby Lincks, Editor

Diving into the lives of students and professors alike across the esteemed Cambridge University combined with Greek tragedy, author Alex Michaelides presents a tribute to the dark academia aesthetic while revealing what lies underneath classical beauty. Hint: a few students are lying dead and a killer is on the loose.

In The Maidens, university student Zoe’s closest friend, Tara, is found dead on campus grounds. Causing chaos and suspicion to ensue of who the killer could possibly be, leading group therapist Mariana Andros, Zoe’s guardian, on a hunt to find who’s responsible, prove this, and keep her Zoe safe. In Mariana’s eyes, Greek tragedy professor Edward Fosca is the main suspect and Mariana will do anything to prove it’s him, even putting herself in dangerous situations with even more dangerous people. 

Upon reading Michaelides’ first novel, The Silent Patient, I had high hopes for what The Maidens could potentially be. That potential was destroyed swiftly, leaving me disappointed but with plenty of theories about this book. 

Michaelides is consistent with his writing style, short, easy to read chapters, and brief point of view segments of who seems to be the villain. He refrains from long descriptions, an abundance of monologues and dense history in comparison to other thriller/horror authors like Stephen King and Gillian Flynn. While I enjoyed the pace at which I found myself getting through the book, the plot lacked depth and a distinguished impact on me, only filled with few sudden twists that were executed poorly. 

Almost every male character was introduced in a fashion that incited suspicion from the reader, leading them to believe any of them could be responsible for the violence taking place across campus. While Mariana believed a singular Professor Fosca to be the perpetrator, the audiences’ suspicions were written to be for most, if not every single male. Where would the fun be in one suspect, and that same suspect, the killer. A thriller/horror needs more than one suspect if not from the point of view of the killer himself. But, I found the introduction of each male being written in such a sloppy and confusing manner, narrowing a few down through convenience and at the last second before the final reveal. 

The theme of convenience is a popular one throughout the book, as encounters between characters are quick but end quicker, making most interactions between Mariana and other characters seem rushed, forced, and the only purpose is just to add a bit more information to the subject at hand, not really caring how it’s passed on. 

Less than halfway into the book, I had a clear singular suspicion of who the murderer of The Maidens might be, and I was right. After this suspicion, I kept looking for clues to prove my theory, finding some. However, when the killer is revealed so is an unexpected relationship. One I did not see coming at all. While there is a brief statement in this book that I look at as a possible metaphor for this twist, I do not associate it with a clue for the reader to latch on to, creating a possibility for them to guess this before the reveal. Why have a reveal, if readers can’t guess it? It destroys the detective role readers can take on and the intrigue that goes into every chapter. Bringing in an outside factor to explain some of the events, what a waste. 

The story itself has potential, however, I think the execution was poorly done. Perhaps if the story was longer, I would feel attached to any of the characters at all. A redeeming factor of the book I enjoyed was the point of view segments we get from an outside character separate from Mariana, the protagonist. Introducing an additional point of view fuels excitement and a view of the disturbed mind. Greek tragedy elements and small explanations of famous Greek tales relating to the murder at hand were a nice touch, fitting for Mariana’s suspect being the Greek tragedy professor himself along with the setting being a college campus. 

Finally, Michaelides forms a bit of a crossover between protagonist Mariana of The Maidens and protagonist of his previous novel The Silent Patient, Theo. Those who have read The Silent Patient, like myself, I’m sure were on the edge of their seats with this and connecting the dots of how each protagonist is acquainted with each other along with how each book’s timelines intersperse. 

In The Maidens, I’ve found that many fellow students of mine also suspected a differing character being involved in said murderous schemes. I wouldn’t let that entire notion go, the fate of this character was not indefinitely determined. Will Michaelides’ next book be about this person? I guess I’ll have to wait and find out, not to say that I will be reading it.