Book Description

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.

My Review

In addition to having an active Audible membership, I also borrow audiobooks from the library. Oftentimes, it’s much easier for me to listen to a book rather than read it. I have written reviews of books I have listened to before, but this is the first time I have received an ARC of an audiobook.

The Secret History is one of my all-time favorite books, so I was very excited about the opportunity to listen to a new entry in the dark academia genre.

Rather than focus on the members of The Maidens, the narrative unfolds from the perspective of Marina, the aunt of the students. This removal makes it less of the dark academia I was expecting and more of a general psychological thriller that happens to be set at an elite university.

Louise Brealey provides the main narration, and Marina is both genteel and determined. She knows something is wrong, and she needs to unmask the killer before her niece becomes the next victim. Brealey also does several regional accents to voice minor characters.

There are interludes between the chapters with commentary from an anonymous man. This is where having an audiobook is a big advantage; there’s actually a second narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, whose flat accent carefully masks any geographic indicators. This lack of emotion also provides insight into the cold and detached nature of the speaker.

To say I was shocked by the reveal would be an understatement. The denouement came out of nowhere, and I can’t say anything more, but I found myself doubting its veracity. Surely, there must be some mistake—a delusional character, perhaps—but as the epilogue reveals, it was all completely true.  

I would recommend The Maidens. The narration brought the story to life by adding layers of depth and nuance, heightening the tension; leads prove fruitless and a killer roams free. I am going to have to keep an eye out for more from the author and both narrators in the future.

I received a digital audiobook from Macmillan Audio/NetGalley.

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