After his debut became one of the most popular thrillers of the year in 2019, the pressure was high for this author’s follow-up release. This one follows the thriller with a killer twist format but it’s set in the world of dark academia, weaving literature and Greek mythology against the backdrop of the traditional Cambridge University.
And it worked for me. For the most part. I loved it almost as much as The Silent Patient.
Let’s get something straight: I don’t mind a slow-burn thriller at all. I like it. In this book Michaelides paints a beautiful picture of Cambridge University, and a sinister picture of elite study groups and suspicious professors. Top it off with some mysterious notes littered with Greek mythology and a string of ritualistic murders of young, beautiful girls. It’s a recipe for a deliciously dark thriller.
Mariana is our protagonist, a recently widowed group therapist who finds herself returning to Cambridge University, her alma mater, to help her neice Zoe when Zoe’s friend is found murdered. She thinks she’ll just visit briefly to provide some support, but she soon finds herself drawn into the mystery. There’s more to it than meets the eye. Her friend said some strange things the night before the murder – and she’s part of elite group of girls, the Maidens. They’re a study group with the professor Fosca, and she won’t be the last maiden to die.
This book does have a slow build, with an atmospheric and authentic depiction of college life as Mariana reflects on meeting her husband there years before while she dives deeper into the current mystery. There’s red herrings and twists a-plenty (and even a familiar face making an appearance), as our plucky therapist-turned detective has no idea who to trust.
The ending is what lets it down just a little. We know this author is the king of twists, but this is a little far. I did start to connect the dots near the end and wonder where it might be going, but the ending isn’t something that could be worked out easily and comes a little out of nowhere.
But, I enjoyed the ride. The writing is great, it kept me reading. I liked Mariana as a character and the different themes woven into this story. There’s a lot to enjoy about this neat little thriller, and I’ll be reading whatever this author does next.
I received The Maidens in exchange for an honest review. 4/5.