I really loved The Silent Patient last year when I read it! So obviously, when I heard Alex Michaelides was releasing a dark academia thriller, I needed it immediately. Unfortunately, by the time it released, I’d heard some reviews that talked about it being easy to guess the killer. So let’s talk about me and my on-point awful guessing skills!
Mariana Andros is a group therapist, but also a woman struggling to come to terms with grieving over her husband’s untimely death. When a girl at her niece’s school dies, Mariana rushes over to make sure that her niece is okay. When she arrives there, however, she meets the charming Greek professor Edward Fosca who has a group of girls enamored with him called the Maidens. She’s instantly convinced of his guilt, and thus begins a spiral into her own obsession with proving his guilt.
Now I understand why people are so disappointed in this book. I didn’t hate it like many people did, but…I understand now. So let’s talk about some things!
First off, Mariana is an interesting character to read from. She has the perspective of a psychotherapist, but she’s also extraordinarily obsessed with Edward Fosca, sometimes beyond reason. As readers, we’re forced to experience the story through her eyes. That felt really frustrating when I wanted to play detective. Like, why am I being regulated to sidepiece John Watson? Also, I have no idea how she managed to worm her way into the investigation. I can suspend belief pretty far but this was just ridiculous. And every man wanted to flirt with her, despite she herself continually thinking about how plain she looked.
I do have to admit that the dark academia aspects were done rather well. The university is brimming with Greek history and mythology, and you can tell that the author is Greek himself. There’s something in my soul that craves knowledge and academia, old books and warm candlelight, of course accompanied by its dearest friend murder. So clearly, this was the part of the book that truly kept me going.
now…it’s time to rant so please look away if you dislike ineloquence (tbh i don’t know if that’s even a word)
EVERYONE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE REVEAL. EVERYONE. Which actually ended up affecting my reading (or listening) experience of this book. You see, when everyone talked about how obvious the killer was, that uh…threw me off. Literally every time a character did something the least bit shady, I was like “HUZZAH! THIS MEDDLING KID HAS CAUGHT YOU!” and then I was wrong??? And somehow it was multiple times??? This novel was unsure if it wanted to be a mystery or a psychological thriller. I was unsure about how obvious obvious actually was.
And Edward Fosca! Somehow, he has six beautiful young female students following him around everywhere and rumors that he has a secret club with them…yet no one on campus bats an eye. The police are just like “yeah lol seems legit” and move on. It’s only our special heroine Mariana who recognizes that maybe that is a little suspicious.
At one point, my thoughts did graze across the reveal, but the actual reasoning was extremely unexpected. And not in a good way. Perhaps I’d see more subtle clues, more foreshadowing – but I honestly think that the author just wrote the story and decided on the end once he got there. I’m kind of tilted, to be honest. A good twist is one that builds upon the reader’s already built trust, knowledge, and relationship with the story. The Silent Patient did that for me. The Maidens did not.
Speaking of The Silent Patient, I absolutely adored the references the author put from that book into this one. It makes me even more excited to read his next work! Because yes, while I thought that The Maidens was overly contrived and half-baked, it also held some intriguing aspects that kept me interested. And I can’t judge a mystery/thriller author off of only two novels. It’s a genre that tends to be hit-or-miss depending on the story.
To conclude, I feel a bit cheated. However, I did listen to this in two days, and I adored the dark academia atmosphere. This technically was not a great mystery but by gosh if I wasn’t addicted! Initially I gave this 4 stars but I think after much reflection, this is certainly a 3 star read. Have you read this? Do you like dark academia mysteries?