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Thursday 17 November 2022

‘The Maidens’ by Alex Michaelides

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
24 May 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-8168-2 (PB)

When Mariana Andros receives a call from her distraught niece Zoe, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment before dropping everything and speeding to her side. A young woman has been brutally murdered close to her Cambridge college, and it turns out that she is Zoe’s best friend.

The police are in attendance, though Mariana is unimpressed with the way they are handling the case. Tea-drinking Inspector Sangha seems content to ignore the information Zoe volunteers, in favour of a suspect he considers to be the obvious culprit. Eventually Mariana sees no alternative but to cancel the therapy groups she runs and remain in Cambridge to do some investigating herself, using her skills and intuition.

She encounters charismatic Professor Fosca, who seems to weave a spell around young women; he has gathered a group of female students around himself; they call themselves the Maidens, and it appears that Tara, the dead girl, was one of them. Mariana feels herself being drawn under Fosca’s spell, but she resists strongly in the light of what Zoe tells her about him.

Then there’s Morris, the meticulous college porter, who has access to just about everywhere; and Julian, a therapist like Mariana but with a quite different approach; and personable Fred, who keeps turning up; and let’s not forget neurotic Henry, a member of one of Mariana’s therapy groups who has become obsessed with her.

As the list of suspects begins to grow, so too does the tension level, and as it threatens to reach breaking point another of the Maidens is murdered. Then another. And the evidence begins to mount.

It all takes place around St Christopher’s, a fictional Cambridge college clearly drawn from personal knowledge or detailed research. There’s another background too – a psychological one. Mariana and Zoe are mourning Sebastian, Mariana’s husband and the love of her life who drowned during a holiday in Greece a little over a year ago. They met at Cambridge, and there are disturbing reminders of him round every corner.

Can Mariana trust her own feelings, and more importantly her judgement? What is the significance of the cards, each bearing a Greek quotation, which turn up at the murder scenes? Is anyone really what they appear to be?  

The Maidens is dark, taut and chilling, a page-turner peopled with memorable characters and leading inexorably to an ending I challenge any reader to see coming. It’s a must for lovers of psychological fiction with menacing undertones. 

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an MA in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an MA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel and was the biggest selling debut in the world in 2019. It spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list and sold in a record-breaking 50 countries. Alex lives in London.


Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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