The Maidens is the dark, twisty novel rooted in mythology that I wanted from The Secret History.
First, let me say that I have not read Alex Michaelides previous novel, The Silent Patient, so I have nothing to compare this book to except other novels. And the one that gave me similar vibes is The Secret History. Unlike most other readers, I didn’t love The Secret History. I wasn’t fond of all the unreliable characters. Oddly, The Maidens is full of unreliable characters, as well, but this time it worked for me.
Michaelides has created characters I didn’t mind not trusting. With the exception of the notes woven throughout the novel from the killer’s mind, the reader experiences the events through Mariana’s point of view. Like the Greek tragedies that heavily influence this story, Mariana’s life has been full of tragic experiences. Most recently the death of her husband. It was fascinating to experience the events from someone who specializes in group therapy as a psychoanalyst, but who is also suffering through unimaginable grief herself. And as a former student at the school where the murders have occurred, her past memories are intertwined with her present experiences. She’s a complex, but informative character.
I also found myself googling many of the places the author mentions in the book, which made the story even more atmospheric. The setting of Cambridge lended itself perfectly to the mysterious deaths, and I could feel Mariana’s fear among the shadows and beside the murky river.
The chapters are short and blunt, and I was a big fan of the style. It allowed me to stop if I needed and absorb what I’d read, the tension building as the past and present slowly meet.
I didn’t try very hard to solve the mystery as I was reading. There were several directions the plot could have gone, so I didn’t even try to guess. When the twist was revealed, I was shocked, but not so shocked that it didn’t make sense. But I did immediately go back to the beginning of the book when I finished to reread many passages—which is always a sign that I enjoyed a book.
I was nervous about picking this one up when I started seeing mixed reviews from my fellow readers, but I was happy to find this one lived up to my expectations. I’m excited to read The Silent Patient soon, as well. While The Maidens wasn’t perfect—and I still have a few unanswered questions—I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and characters in this spine-tingling thriller.