"The Maidens," | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
Fans of “The Silent Patient” a psychological murder mystery embraced by many are sure to be taken with “The Maidens,” a second book by author Alex Michaelides, just released this week.
Once again Michaelides mines the psyche, his newest main character Mariana, a therapist, like his protagonist in “The Silent Patient.” For his sophomore effort, however, Michaelides sets his story at Cambridge University, rather than within the dismal walls of an insane asylum.
Mariana has traveled to Cambridge from her London home to be with her beloved niece Zoe, whose close friend Tara has been found murdered, the victim of a knife attack. Mariana is no stranger to Cambridge where she and her late husband Sebastian went to school, nor is she a stranger to grief. Sebastian drowned the year before in Greece, the country where Mariana was born, his body washed up on the shore.
Zoe, too, has suffered incredible losses, her parents died when she was young, leaving Mariana as Zoe’s legal guardian.
Once Mariana arrives at St. Christopher’s College in Cambridge, she finds her niece in dire straits, in shock but appearing to be holding something back. Also unsettling are a group of young women who attend Tara’s funeral, all dressed in flowing white. The Maidens are a well known secret society on campus, their leader the handsome Professor Edward Fosca a brilliant man schooled in Greek mythology, who seems to have a strange hold over them, one of whom had been Tara.
Rather than returning to London after the funeral, Mariana remains in Cambridge feeling her background in group therapy might be of help in finding the killer. Plenty of quirky minor characters become suspect as the story continues, Mariana’s fear for Zoe becoming paramount, and her own life threatened, as another of The Maidens is found murdered.
“The Maidens” is particularly engaging because of its references to Freud’s writings; Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry, himself a graduate of Cambridge; and frequent mention of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, a clever tie in to a book in which Michaelides pulls out all the stops at the end. This is an entertaining fast read.