Wednesday 9 June 2021

THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides


We all keep secrets. Even from ourselves.  

For Mariana Andros - a group therapist struggling through her private grief - it's where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it's the tragic scene of her best friend's murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders - and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana's investigation - an obsession which will unravel everything...

I spotted this book in one of Hachette's catalogues and I found the concept so interesting, I requested a review copy. So I have to thank Hachette Australia for sending me one.

Mariana is a group therapist and is going through a devastating loss when her niece calls from Cambridge asking for her help. Zoe's friend has gone missing and she suspects she's the body that was found stabbed and dumped near the river... 

Wow. What an excellent, well-written story! I was hooked on this addictive book from the beginning.

I honestly didn't know what to expect after I started reading, and what I got was an atmospheric psychological thriller full of twists, turns and an eerie mix of mythology. And short snappy chapters that moved the events forward at a great pace.

I'm a huge fan of Greek mythology and especially anything to do with Persephone, the Underworld and Medusa. I also absolutely love psychological thrillers, so this story spoke to me on several levels. 

Another thing that I enjoyed about this story were the characters. They were all unique in their own way. No one was entirely evil or entirely good, everyone was flawed in their own way as a result of their past. Their childhood and life experiences affected them deeply, which was another great recurring theme. All of these factors form such a great study of how the psychology of childhood makes us who we are, and keeps on shaping us into adulthood.

The story is mostly told in the POV of Mariana, and I liked going on this very dark journey with her. She was a great main character because she revealed so much, yet wasn't even aware how much she left out herself. There are also some disturbing journal entries peppered throughout written by a mysterious narrator.

The Maidens is an outstanding Greek tragedy with a good dose of love, betrayal, sacrifice and violence. It's perfectly disguised as a twisty psychological trip that's full of surprises, misdirection and horrific murders. Sometimes, I even questioned what was real and what wasn't. The suspicion, dread and paranoia drips off every page. Not to mention that I couldn't put it down, and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

I loved this and am now looking forward to reading the author's first book, The Silent Patient.

The Maidens, June 2021, ISBN 9781409181675, Orion

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