Mariana’s therapy experience introduces a fresh forensic-psychology perspective to ever-popular themes of Greek tragedy and insular academia. Michaelides’ stage-setting skills are as masterful here, as they were in The Silent Patient (2019); another tense, cleverly twisted winner.
Fans of Alex Michaelides’ blockbuster debut The Silent Patient will eagerly dive into his newest thriller ... Michaelides’ page-turner cleverly weaves together Mariana’s difficult and haunted past, her group therapy patients, Greek mythology and the increasing local tension as more girls are killed. He makes excellent use of the Cambridge University setting, with its gothic settings, traditions and hierarchy of students, professors and staff. As clues emerge and danger grows, Mariana becomes more and more sure of her sleuthing, although frustrated readers may often want to shake her and point her in other directions ... a well-paced, suspenseful and easy-to-digest thriller. The Greek tragedy aspect is intriguing and Michaelides explains the mythology, so there’s no need to brush up beforehand. Be forewarned, however: there’s a supremely unsettling, sure-to-be-divisive twist at the end of this cliffhanger.
... the premise is enticing and the elements irresistible. Alas, The Maidens is not an English version of The Secret History, but an overstuffed melodrama marred by clunky dialogue, breathless one-sentence paragraphs, pseudo-suspenseful chapter endings and a plot that will try the patience even of readers with a high tolerance for improbability ... Astute readers will thrill to some neat cross-references to Michaelides’s earlier book. The Silent Patient had a fiendishly hard-to-guess twist; the one in The Maidens could have been flown down in a spaceship from another planet.
The Silent Patient, was, according to his ecstatic publisher’s promotional copy, 'the biggest selling debut in the world in 2019,' so perhaps I’m missing something distinctive about The Maidens...That something would not be the novel’s descriptive passages nor its dialogue. Judge for yourself. ... As a Gothic seducer, the professor relies on lines more full of baloney than the Cold Cut Combo at Subway ... I will admit I was drawn in by the first few chapters of The Maidens that focus on Mariana’s grief and her work as a group therapist. I even looked forward to Mariana’s getaway to Cambridge...But Michaelides’s plot begins to go off the rails when a graduate student in Mathematics falls instantly in love with Mariana and proposes soon thereafter. Credibility is further strained by Chief Inspector Sangha, who’s in charge of the investigation, a man with 'a lean and hungry look' who treats Mariana with instant (and unexplained) disdain. The novel’s credibility fully disintegrates at a memorial service held in the college chapel for the first victim. There, Professor Fosca and The Maidens process in and no one in attendance — university administrators, parents or students — places a red alert call to authorities from the Sexual Misconduct Review Board ... Throughout The Maidens, Michaelides quotes from the melancholy poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, one of Cambridge’s most celebrated poets. But a line from another Cambridge poet began seems to me more apt as a final pronouncement on The Maidens. I’m thinking of A.E. Housman who was a professor of Latin there in the early 20th century. Housman wrote the long poetry sequence, A Shropshire Lad, which contains the oft-useful line, 'Terence, this is stupid stuff.'
Michaelides...skillfully infuses this mystery with stories of death and life from Greek mythology and motifs of darkness and light that suggest all is not as it seems; indeed, several disturbing characters cast doubt on the killer’s identity. While the tension could have been heightened, and the unforeseen conclusion tests believability, this is intriguing psychological suspense.
... [a] psychological thriller ... The intelligent, cerebral plot finds contemporary parallels in Euripides's tragedies, Jacobean dramas such as The Duchess of Malfi, and Tennyson's poetry. The devastating ending shows just how little the troubled Mariana knows about the human psyche or herself. Michaelides is on a roll.
The book gets off to a slow start, front-loaded with backstories and a Cambridge travelogue, but then picks up the pace and piles up the bodies. With its ambience of ritualistic murders, ancient myths, and the venerable college, the story is a gothic thriller despite its contemporary setting. That makes Mariana tough to get on board with—she behaves less like a modern professional woman than a 19th-century gothic heroine, a clueless woman who can be counted on in any situation to make the worst possible choice. And the book’s ending, while surprising, also feels unearned, like a bolt from the blue hurled by some demigod. Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.