Anthony McIntyre 🔖 For those who like their murder mysteries situated in the cloistered environs of universities, then much like the work of the Danish novelist Sissel-Jo Gazant, this captivating thriller might just be what gets them to bed early in the evening. 


Edward Fosca is a professor of Classics at Cambridge University. Anybody familiar with the city and the musty scent from its plethora of bookshops or the antiquated feel to its campus guestrooms, will slip into the atmosphere instantly. They might not be quite as prepared for a dip into the ancient Greek text that plays a part in unlocking the door to solving the crimewave that perhaps has not gripped the city since Peter Cooke was on a rape spree there in the mid 1970s. Fosca has a cult following amongst some students whom he refers to as the Maidens. Then the murders start and the Maidens start to shrink in number. 

Mariana Andros, aunt to one of the Maidens, Zoe, takes on the role of amateur sleuth in response to a fearful plea from the niece who claims she feels under threat from someone. Recently widowed when her husband Sebastian drowned on a Greek holiday, and her life thrown into turmoil, Mariana has slowly pulled herself out of the abyss. Because she and Sebastian had parented Zoe after her parents had died, she feels a particular duty of care. Yet, it was only after a Maiden friend of Zoe's is murdered, that she begins to treat the fears of her niece seriously.

An arrest is quickly made but Mariana is doubtful. Instead, she homes in on Fosca. He fits the bill and ticks the circumstantial boxes. A professor holding down a position of power and authority within one of the country's most prestigious universities, who has encouraged a coterie of adoring female followers whose infatuation he cultivates for sexual gratification. If there is an identity parade he will be in the middle of it. 

Mariana is a group psychology therapist who feels she has an advantage over the police investigator because of the way the Maidens function in accordance with group dynamics. The investigating cop, Chief Inspector Sangha, clearly does not like his stomping ground being trodden over by those outside the official gum shoe profession. This leads to a predictable turf war with Mariana. 

If we set aside an old university culture being played out in a modern university setting, being willing to chalk it up as writer's licence, the plot works magnificently. Other characters appear in the narrative causing the eyes to swivel from one possible suspect to another. The possibility of the culprit being the  resourceful Cambridge porter or the sinister stalker from Mariana's therapy class creeps into the reader's mind.

Listened to rather than read, the twist is masterful. Wholly out of left field and which beckons Mariana back to the very abyss she had wrenched herself from after the death of her husband. 

Greek Tragedy or just a good English murder mystery, having absorbed The Maidens, Alex Michaelides’s earlier debut novel The Silent Patient beckons.

Alex Michaelides, 2021, The Maidens.  Publisher W&N. ASIN B08R69MVD9

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

The Maidens

Anthony McIntyre 🔖 For those who like their murder mysteries situated in the cloistered environs of universities, then much like the work of the Danish novelist Sissel-Jo Gazant, this captivating thriller might just be what gets them to bed early in the evening. 


Edward Fosca is a professor of Classics at Cambridge University. Anybody familiar with the city and the musty scent from its plethora of bookshops or the antiquated feel to its campus guestrooms, will slip into the atmosphere instantly. They might not be quite as prepared for a dip into the ancient Greek text that plays a part in unlocking the door to solving the crimewave that perhaps has not gripped the city since Peter Cooke was on a rape spree there in the mid 1970s. Fosca has a cult following amongst some students whom he refers to as the Maidens. Then the murders start and the Maidens start to shrink in number. 

Mariana Andros, aunt to one of the Maidens, Zoe, takes on the role of amateur sleuth in response to a fearful plea from the niece who claims she feels under threat from someone. Recently widowed when her husband Sebastian drowned on a Greek holiday, and her life thrown into turmoil, Mariana has slowly pulled herself out of the abyss. Because she and Sebastian had parented Zoe after her parents had died, she feels a particular duty of care. Yet, it was only after a Maiden friend of Zoe's is murdered, that she begins to treat the fears of her niece seriously.

An arrest is quickly made but Mariana is doubtful. Instead, she homes in on Fosca. He fits the bill and ticks the circumstantial boxes. A professor holding down a position of power and authority within one of the country's most prestigious universities, who has encouraged a coterie of adoring female followers whose infatuation he cultivates for sexual gratification. If there is an identity parade he will be in the middle of it. 

Mariana is a group psychology therapist who feels she has an advantage over the police investigator because of the way the Maidens function in accordance with group dynamics. The investigating cop, Chief Inspector Sangha, clearly does not like his stomping ground being trodden over by those outside the official gum shoe profession. This leads to a predictable turf war with Mariana. 

If we set aside an old university culture being played out in a modern university setting, being willing to chalk it up as writer's licence, the plot works magnificently. Other characters appear in the narrative causing the eyes to swivel from one possible suspect to another. The possibility of the culprit being the  resourceful Cambridge porter or the sinister stalker from Mariana's therapy class creeps into the reader's mind.

Listened to rather than read, the twist is masterful. Wholly out of left field and which beckons Mariana back to the very abyss she had wrenched herself from after the death of her husband. 

Greek Tragedy or just a good English murder mystery, having absorbed The Maidens, Alex Michaelides’s earlier debut novel The Silent Patient beckons.

Alex Michaelides, 2021, The Maidens.  Publisher W&N. ASIN B08R69MVD9

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

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