Book Review of The Maidens by Alex Michaelides – Breathtaking Suspense
My Rating – 3.5 out of 5
Plot Summary – The Maidens
I sometimes hold it half a sinLord Alfred Tennyson quoted in The Maidens
To put in words the grief I feel:
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
The much-awaited second novel from Alex Michaelides – the author of the 2019 runaway hit, The Silent Patient, was published on June 15th, 2021, and fans of the earlier novel were eagerly waiting for it. To that huge feeling of anticipation, this is a letdown of sorts. This is not in the same league, though by itself it is a cracking thriller too. Some characters from The Silent Patient make an appearance in this too, and the setting is London and the main character here is a psychotherapist as well.
Mariana Andros, of Greek origins with an English mother, had come to London for her higher education at Cambridge University. Now 36, she’s recovering – and not too well – from the accidental death of her beloved husband Sebastian – a college sweetheart. Circumstances bring her back to her Alma Mater – her niece Zoe (whose parents died in a terrible car crash when she was very young and was then kind of adopted by Mariana and Sebastian) is now a student there. About 70 odd pages are taken to get to this point, which considerably slows down the pace of the story. Though that picks up towards the end, at the beginning it feels a bit droning.
A frantic call from Zoe interrupts Mariana‘s Group Therapy classes with clinically depressed persons and brings her back to the turrets, spires, and other gothic-themed architecturally beautiful buildings of Cambridge. This is where she and Sebastian had found each other and courted till they got married. Zoe‘s best friend Tara is found brutally stabbed to death on the banks of a nearby marsh. Zoe suspects one of their professors, Edward Fosca, to be the murderer but he has an ironclad alibi. The investigating officer, Inspector Sadhu Sangha, suspects Tara’s renegade boyfriend, Conrad Ellis, to be the one responsible and proceeds with that notion.
The more Mariana interrogates Zoe, the more she is convinced that Edward Fosca is her man. He, who has six beautiful girl students (The Maidens) who constantly follow him around and have actually vouched for his alibi. The author throws around a few other suspects – the Porter of Cambridge, one of Mariana‘s stalker patients, a presumptuous young man Mariana meets on the train to Cambridge – to name some. Her investigation takes her down some dark paths and the trademark twist in the tale at the end makes for intriguing reading.
However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is not half as exciting or interesting as the earlier book, though that could be a result of illogical expectations borne out of hope. The author does build up a high level of suspense and intrigue with concepts of ritualistic serial killing, folklores, and myths from a time long gone by, but somehow all this doesn’t really gel well together. Much unlike The Silent Patient, where the end literally blows you away, this doesn’t pack half a punch like that.
Conclusion – Book Review of The Maidens
This is definitely a must-read, just not with the expectations that the author had set with his debut novel two years back. Be prepared for a slow start and then the pace picks up and ends with the traditional flourish characteristic of a good thriller.
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