“I don’t want to be two people. I want to be one person. I want to be whole. But I have no choice, it seems.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Orion in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!
I really enjoyed his debut The Silent Patient back when I read it in 2019, and I’ve been highly anticipating his newest title The Maidens ever since I first heard about it. I was intrigued as soon as I read the blurb, both because of the Cambridge angle and the promise of a Greek mythology element… Especially the second was a huge bonus for me as I always love a touch of mythology in my stories. I was fully expecting to have a fantastic time with this story, so imagine my surprise when I ended up having a completely different experience instead… I’ll try to explain my mixed feelings briefly below.
First of all I have to say that I still like the premise of the story. The body found on the Cambridge campus, the secret society, the Persephone references… The story had a lot of potential and I especially liked the many descriptions of the Cambridge setting and its contrast to the brutal crime. That said, I have to say that I was actually rather underwhelmed by the execution of the plot, which was surprisingly dull. How can things be dull with such brutal murders, would you say? I’m surprised myself, but I had a really hard time staying focused and invested in a plot that never managed to grab me completely. The story starts out rather slow, and while the pace does speed up a little later on it was never enough for me. On top of this, the story throws in so many red herrings that you almost drown in them, and instead of adding suspense and tension it only ends up distracting form the story (as well as being highly annoying).
I can’t say I was a fan of the characters either. Not only are they unlikeable, but they seem underdeveloped and quite one-dimentional too. I mean, all the male characters seem to be very unpleasant and instant suspects, and the female characters are pretty much despicable too. They mostly felt like cliches and weren’t fleshed out enough for me to actually care about what happened to them. The main character Mariana wasn’t really a believable character either, and it was especially annoying to see how she hides evidence from the police and seems to have too many psychological issues herself to function as a therapist to others.
The writing itself does feel solid, and I liked how the short chapters made it easy to read the story. I do have to say that I was again rather underwhelmed by the ending and how everything was wrapped up in general. As a whole, The Maidens sadly didn’t manage to convince me, although I know that I’m in the minority so definitely don’t give up on my account.