Summary: Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students, The Maidens. Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member is found murdered. Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 5/5 stars
A few months ago, I received an ominous postcard in the mail telling me I was invited to join a secret club called The Maidens Society. There was a URL to a website for more information, but the website was equally as secretive as the postcard. I used my sleuthing skills and poked around until I realized this was a genius marketing promotion for the new book by Alex Michaelides, which only made me even more antsy to read it. I think I actually squealed when it showed up in the mail yesterday, and then I proceeded to devour this book.
I don’t know what it is about Alex Michaelides, but I’m madly in love with his books. The Silent Patient was one of my all-time favorite reads of 2019, and this might be a new favorite for 2021. There’s something about his writing that absolutely captivates the reader. The chapters are brief and make for easy reading, but I was also completely lulled into this world he created with The Maidens. I read this in only a few hours, and when I finished at precisely 1am, I wanted to simultaneously travel abroad, go back to school and major in Classic Literature, and throw myself off a cliff. I was so swept up in this story that I laid awake for an embarrassingly long time afterward just thinking about it.
There’s a lot to unpack in this story, so many different elements that all tie the story together beautifully. There’s the obvious murder mystery aspect, with Mariana using her sleuthing and therapy skills to pinpoint the killer on Fosca, a professor at the school where the murders happen. There’s a tragic backstory where Mariana struggles with grief. There’s in depth psychology discussions, full analyses on poets (specifically Tennyson, and it’s absolutely intentional that Mariana’s name is the same as a character from one of Tennyson’s poems).
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Michaelides book without an overflow of history on Ancient Greece and Greek tragedy. This is arguably my favorite aspect of the story, although I might be biased because I’ve always found these subjects fascinating, and my dream vacation would be to Greece, but I digress. I loved the way the mythology was woven into multiple facets of the story. Fosca is specifically a Greek Tragedy professor, so we get to hear his lectures, but Mariana is also familiar with the stories and feels haunted by them.
All of these aspects are so incredibly well done because Michaelides has done his research and effortlessly inserts himself into the story (he’s half-Greek, half-English, studied psychotherapy and English literature in college). He’s also a screenwriter, so he knows how to keep a story moving quickly, how to keep his audience engaged. This is truly what sets him apart from most thriller authors at the moment, and it’s why I adored this book.
I don’t want to spoil too much of this book, and I truly feel like as a reader you’ll appreciate this book more if you go into it knowing less. However I will say I enjoyed the characters so much, and I loved rooting for a main character who had her own demons to fight that weren’t cliched and over-the-top. I loved spiting the characters we’re driven to spite, empathizing with those we’re driven to empathize with, etc. Everyone is so well done and realistic.
The only thing I would change about this book would be the ending. After so much buildup, it felt too abrupt. It was over way too quickly, and I wish it had been more fleshed out. That being said, this book could have been five times the length and I would still be coddling it.
So many thanks to Celadon Books for providing me this readers’ advance copy in exchange for my honest opinions.