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The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens

Repeat author

Alex Michaelides is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include The Silent Patient.

by Alex Michaelides
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Quick take

From the author of The Silent Patient, a gripping tale of murder, myth, and the horror lurking beneath the ivory tower.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Creepy


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Academic



Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

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Why I love it

If you’ve read The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides’s breakout debut thriller, it will come as no surprise that the author is also a screenwriter. Like his previous book, The Maidens is wildly cinematic and you can TOTALLY imagine it playing out on the big screen. This book is so atmospheric that I really believe it should come wrapped in ivy and scented like the antique books in a Cambridge library—or perhaps with a salty waft of the Aegean.

Our heroine Mariana is a grieving widow and group therapist who cares deeply for her niece, Zoe. So when one of Zoe’s friends is murdered, Mariana travels to Cambridge to support her—and to prove the guilt of Edward Fosca, the enigmatic professor who seems to have captured the admiration of everyone but Mariana. She’s also determined to uncover what’s really going on with his cultish student followers who call themselves The Maidens.

While we’re still largely stuck at home and unable to travel I found that this wonderful read more than sated some of my wanderlust. And this is one of the things that sets Alex Michaelides’s writing apart from lesser thrillers: yes, there’s the twisty, compulsive, page-turner appeal, the cleverly placed red herrings and the ‘what the hell just happened’ moments, but also a wonderful sense of place and a rich depth of character. I cared hugely for our grieving heroine Mariana and her niece Zoe. I was fascinated by the mysterious Maidens and by their enigmatic leader, the deliciously byronic Edward Fosca with his sweeping dark cloak and long locks. I came away from reading this feeling richly sated and as though I had had my breath snatched from me by the thrilling roller coaster ride of the plot. And I have to say that while I hugely enjoyed Alex’s debut, I think this one might just clinch it for me.

Reader, you’re in for a glorious gothic treat.

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