The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (Book 5 of 20 Books of Summer, and such a disappointment)

I put this on “Hold” at the library even before it was first published; I have great hopes for books touted as being the most anticipated thriller of the season, but by now I should know better. (Gone Girl, I’m speaking to you.)

The Maidens has all the potential for an interesting read. Reminiscent in some ways of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, there are Ancient Greek letters, snippets from Tennyson and Euripides, and quotes written in black ink on the back of postcards left under doors or tucked into the edges of mirrors. There is a privileged society of “maidens”, who dote on Professor Edward Fosca; one by one they are found viciously stabbed to death.

Tarquin and Lucretia by Titian


One of the postcards was an image Mariana knew: a painting by Titian – Tarquin and Lucretia…Mariana pulled the postcard away from the board. She turned it over. There, on the back, was a handwritten quotation in black ink. Four lines, in Ancient Greek…Roughly speaking, it says…’The oracles agree: in order to defeat the enemy and save the city…a maiden must be sacrificed – a maiden of noble birth – ‘“

Alex Michaelides points so significantly to Fosca being the murderer, that we know it can’t be him. I plowed through the rather poor writing, and deliberate manipulations, following the group therapist Mariana as she walked the streets of Cambridge where her niece attends. It seems a little bit odd that this therapist inserts herself into solving the series of murders, only annoying the maidens, the professor, the police, and me.

I make it a point never to believe anything written by the New York Times, which said:

Alex Michaelides’s long-awaited next novel, ‘The Maidens,’ is finally here…the premise is enticing and the elements irresistible.” 

The New York Times

Instead, I adhere to Kirkus reviews, with their most succinct summary of all:

Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

Kirkus

6 thoughts on “The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (Book 5 of 20 Books of Summer, and such a disappointment)”

  1. I don’t know about the book, but I think Titian wasn’t on his best form with that painting. Poor Lucretia has a tiny head, not looking particularly alarmed at about to be stabbed, and her arms are rather masculine. Not to mention Tarquin’s calves. They seem far too stubby to me. As the NY Times is behind a paywall, I am rarely swayed by their reviewers’ opinions, one of the reasons I tend to look to bloggers and Goodreads reviewers who are usually less biased or trying to curry favour or impress their peers or publishers.
    Book blog: Market Garden Reader

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  2. I’d seen this one and it sounded so good, but after reading your post I’m definitely not adding it to my reading pile. Thanks for the heads up! xx

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