I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Macmillan Audio, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The premise for The Maidens immediately piqued my interest. A ritualistic murder on a prestigious college campus, with a Classics professor and his select group of all female students, known as the Maidens, at the center of the intrigue? Yes, please. I love dark academia, especially when combined with the study of Ancient Greek and classical literature. I went in hoping form something along the lines of The Secret History, which I absolutely adore. But I liked what this book pretended to be far more than what it actually was. If that makes sense. Alas, The Maidens fell a bit flat for me.
I actually groaned out loud at the twist. I was so disappointed with where it went. I felt played, and not in a fun way. There was some truly great setup for something else here, but the twist came out of left field with absolutely no breadcrumbs leading to it. It felt forced and false, and reminded me of the problems I had with Michaelides’ previous novel. But while I didn’t love how things turned out, the rest of the story was interesting enough to make my experience with it vaguely positive overall.
There is a brief reference to the author’s previous novel, The Silent Patient, and the case around which that story centers. This was a fun addition, I suppose, but it actually served to pull me out of the story. I thought it was unnecessary and distracting, but that’s a personal opinion. I’m sure there will be other readers who love this little nod to The Silent Patient.
Something random that bothered me through the entirety of the book: why does every single man who crosses our perspective character’s path seem to have the hots for her? I know she’s evidently a beautiful woman, but having 4 different men pursuing her to varying degrees over the course of the novel was a bit much. And elicited more than a little eye-rolling. What I will say, though, is that the audio for this is stellar, except for the voice given to one particular character. If you’re a fan of BBC’s Sherlock, be aware that Louise Brealey is the main narrator here!
The Maidens wasn’t a bad book. But it didn’t live up to its potential. If you’re in the market for a mystery, this one might be refreshingly different. However, if you go into this book looking for dark academia along the lines of The Secret History, I’m afraid you might be disappointed.
Expected release date: June 15, 2021
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