【 THE MAIDENS 】
Author: Alex Michaelides
Published: June 2021
Publisher: Celadon Books
Pages: 352 (paperback)
Compelling. Thrilling. Shocking. Addictive. But also many questions and many things that didn’t quite sit right with me.
This book is a piece of work, sheesh. I loved it and flew through it, but I was also deeply unsettled by it.
I finished the book feeling robbed of a conclusive ending, with so many questions not only left unanswered, but with new ones raised. I was horrified by the ending of this book and the deeply disturbing plot twist that ends this story.
But the reading experience was magnificent. If you like your thrillers, and don’t want to think too hard about the finer details, this fits the bill nicely.
The most confused 3-star review I’ve ever done
If you can’t tell, I’m a little torn by this book. I genuinely believe, having now read many other’s reviews, that the audiobook experience saved me from picking too many holes in this.
The audio performance was well done and very immersive, and I think it lifted the characterisation to a good level. I was frantic to know who was committing the murders in this book and could not put it down. The performance was exceptional and I was deeply sunk into the story watching the scenes play out in my mind.
I also had not realised who the author was and what exactly it was that I was reading until I actually started the book. So I had no idea what dark themes and twists were in store for me. I’ve not read The Silent Patient, and I’m undecided if I’m going to.
My first impression was that this was a wicked murder mystery set in the atmospheric location of Cambridge University. It was buzzing with intrigue and stuffed full of characters that you can’t help but point fingers at and speculate if it is them.
It has an amateur detective vibe, with our main character not being an appropriate authority to solve the case. I loved this, I have no issue with this, I think it’s a fun storytelling device that borrows from the idea of Sherlock Holmes.
What did bother me
I’m quietly knocking some stars off my review because the flatness of all the female characters and the predatory nature of all the male characters was a bit shit.
But this only bothers me if I am closely examining this story/taking it a bit too seriously. It is fiction, afterall. Yet, enough well-articulated one-star reviews are out there that I did want to validate what they’re saying – considering I did, on the whole, love this book.
The women are poorly developed. Mariana is not a likeable main character. She’s on the verge of a breakdown and increasingly thick-headed as the plot progresses. She’s a class-a example of the hero who walks straight into every obvious danger, to the frustration of the audience.
Almost no other female characters are developed at all.
Fosca is painted as a predator from page one. Murderer suspicions aside, it was concerning that no-one was worried about his unctuous manner and clearly sexualised version of Professor Slughorn’s special student privileges (Harry Potter reference).
Fred was also really weird! I did not like him and was really concerned why Mariana tolerated his stalking and obsessive behaviour. Men in this story frequently get away with questionable behaviour, and even more weirdly, the female characters never question it.
Etc etc. I think you get the drift.
The main thing that really bothered me was that I didn’t quite understand the very final scene. It’s a bit cliff-hanger-y and on the back of quite the hard-to-wrap-your-head-around plot twist/disturbing revelations, I felt really bamboozled. Which disappointed me because I like to completely understand what happen and what’s going on at the end of a thriller.
There were also a lot of red herrings that don’t actually complete the bigger picture. Which felt like a missed opportunity.
This is a book I’m sure I’m going to think about for a long time. I really, really enjoyed reading it. And it wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised there was a small niggling feeling in me that was pointing out some of the things that didn’t work for me. On the whole? Great read. My recommendation? Give it a go if you dare. I suggest the audiobook.
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Have you read The Maidens?