By Alex Michaelides
What it’s about?
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.
What I think:
This is a hard one to review as my feelings are so mixed.
The claustrophobic atmosphere of small Cambridge colleges and the traditions of the University isnicely done. It’s a shame the short and jumpy chapters stop the flow of the writing that I never really fully immersed myself in the academic world.
The premise of the story is a really good one – a group of beautiful young women, a charismatic attractive professor, and a murder that looks like revenge. The problem was I didn’t feel like I got to know or sympathise with any if the Maidens, so I didn’t really care who got killed.
The main character Mariana was another issue for me. I could not connect to her at all. She is superficially interesting and complex, but she never really gets to the heart of anything. It’s like she almost purposefully avoids asking the most obvious and necessary questions. Her own psychological past and the lost of her husband. The Greek mythology connections are taken to extremes as she seems to think that she, and the mythical goddesses, are responsible for his accidental drowning.
Her relationship with Zoe feels strained and artificial. She wants to solve the murders and protect Zoe, but has so many opportunities to talk to her that she just ignores and instead meets up with a variety of random people – one of whom is a man she met on a train who keeps asking her to marry him. Presumably the reader is supposed to find this quirky and charming. Or think he is a suspect. I just found it ridiculous.
She uses her position as a therapist to access crime scenes with no experience or authority. The group session she holds for the Maidens adds nothing to the plot and does not give the reader any new information. It wouldn’t have been such a shock to Mariana if she had bothered to listen to anything people had told her earlier.
The resolution- what can I say about that that won’t give too many spoilers?! It is at once completely obviously and comes out of no where. I actually laughed! It made no sense to me! And the real issues that it raised are dismissed as the book shoehorns in links to The Silent Patient. It all felt a bit over the top.
I thought I was going to love this book, but I didn’t. I also didn’t hate it. It was a quick and often entertaining read. Just didn’t live up to my expectations.