The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (2021) Review

Greek tragedies ARE the best inspiration to murder

Why I picked up the book:

Death and tragedy have surrounded Mariana all her life. Still, since marrying the man of her dreams, finding her calling, and raising her orphaned niece, Zoe, as if she was her own, Mariana’s life seemed to be finally on track.

That is until tragedy struck, and she loses her husband. We meet her a year after her loss, and still grieving, she leaves everything behind when Zoe calls asking for help. Her best friend was murdered, and Zoe suspects professor Fosca and his posse, the maidens, are very much involved.

Mariana sets out to Cambridge to protect her niece and make sure professor Fosca is caught; Mariana is obsessively convinced of his guilt.

When another girl is found murdered in the same ritualistic way, Mariana knows it’s just a matter of time before another body shows up. She is determined to put an end to it before the murderer targets Zoe.

The book through my criteria lens:

I usually try not to be greedy and only request one format of a book I am interested in – either a copy I can read or a copy I can listen to. I was almost done reading The Maidens when the audiobook became available; I should have just let it go, right? Well, no. For one, the audiobook is published by Macmillan Audio, and y’all know how I feel about their productions. For “two,” Louise Brealey is a narrator in this book, and I am a massive fan of hers. She is one of my favourite narrators, and let me tell you, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith matched her talent! 

Between the two of them, the story came to life. Their pace was impeccable, their chemistry was evident, and I feel they took a magnificent story and elevated it. There were passages in The Maidens that were written in Greek. I loved listening to the narrators read them! Even though I still did not know what it meant, I appreciated listening to them being spoken as they should be, which, unfortunately, I failed to do independently. I also liked the atmosphere the narration brought to our mystery character’s chapters. The narration was so creepy! I loved it! Lastly, I read with a North American “accent,” so I love listening to British books because they always sound better than my “head voice.”

If you can afford it, I recommend experiencing the book in both formats – the narration is terrific, and so is Alex Michaelides’ writing style. 

Technically and based on my personal criteria, I can not fault The Maidens. The plot idea was excellent – Greek Tragedies ARE the perfect inspiration to thrillers. The way Michaelides executed his vision was superb. It was everything I love in a book – Fast, witty, enthralling, fair, compelling. Reading The Maidens was like being pulled into a vortex: each time I started reading, my world ceased to exist, and I was utterly immersed in the world Michaelides created just for me (okay, okay, it was a gift for everyone who reads it). He has this ability to build an atmosphere so authentic, you see what he wants you to see and feel what he wants you to feel. He played entirely fair, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t quite put the puzzle completely together; his final twist was “chef’s kiss.” I liked it so much I read the audiobook in its entirety right after I finished the e-book.

Mariana was a fantastic character, and her development was done perfectly. I felt like I knew her; I saw myself in her. Experiencing the book through her eyes was a privilege. Alex gave each character a unique voice and a purpose within the text. Different characters evoked different visceral reactions in me that still linger: The empathy I felt for Mariana, The dislike I felt for Fosca, the revulsion I felt for Morris, the loathing and pity I felt for the harpies, erm, I mean the maidens, the ambivalence I felt for Fred. In fact, I don’t think there was a single character I didn’t have an emotional reaction to.

My personal feelings:

First and foremost, I need to let out the excitement I felt when seeing some characters from The Silent Patient make an appearance. It’s not often that Thriller/mystery authors actually BUILD their own universe, and I’m here for Michaelides’ world. I can’t wait to see more of it! I feel his books can be read in any order (so far), but do yourself a favour and have both books handy when you start reading, it will be impossible not to read them back to back. In fact, I mentioned that I read The Maidens twice in a row (one as an audiobook); I forgot to say that I have also added The Silent Patient to my May TBR because I just can’t stop thinking about it now!

I really don’t want to drop even an inkling of a spoiler, but Michaelides really surprised me with parts of his twist. I was hoodwinked, fooled, stupefied, and loved every minute of it—utter and total whiplash syndrome. As much as I am competitive and love solving plot puzzles, there is something to be said about the thrill of being surprised when reading a book. I am cherishing this feeling.

The way Michaelides describes places is brilliant. I really felt like I was at that farm, in Greece, at Mariana’s house. I felt like I had attended St Christopher’s College. Basically, wherever he took me, he evoked a vivid visual that made me feel like I was there. This, to me, is another of the millions of reasons why I adore his writing style.

Lastly, (though I feel no one but me will care) can I take a moment and show my most profound appreciation for Alex’s love of commas? The comma is my favourite graphic sign. I think I even use them when I speak. There are no words to express how much I love seeing them used. Is it just me, or do they really make sentences so much more dynamic and exciting? Just me? Okay, rave done.

I foresee The Maidens making it to my 2021 top reads list! And I will be utterly shocked if it doesn’t make it to Goodreads’ best thriller shortlist.

Playlist by the author Alex Michaelides

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read and listened to it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Orion Publishing Group, Macmillan Audio, NetGalley and Alex Michaelides for providing me with copies of The Maidens

Until book, be the hummingbird!

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