The Maidens is a compelling, atmospheric psychological thriller that kept me guessing long after closing the book for the last time. It is a very clever story with many red herrings that create several possible outcomes, and the immersive descriptions and gothic undertones are perfect for a macabre secret society with its ancient Greek origins and rituals. I loved the references to Tennyson and some Greek plays with which I am familiar, as they add to the overall suspense and are fitting for Cambridge University. The main character is such the “victim” that it becomes increasingly annoying as she makes bad decisions after bad decisions and can’t see reality staring right back at her. Yet, the ending is shocking, and the very last page left me with that unsettled feeling I like most from a psychological thriller. You never know what motivates people, especially after a traumatic experience. However, a few things marred my reading experience, most notably plot gaps and subtleties that confused me and left me unsure that I understood what was going on in the story. This story is a perfect choice for people who enjoy a challenging mystery and want to see if they can figure out the real clues versus the red herrings.
This star rating is based on the technical aspects of the novel and not my overall enjoyment of the book, since, as I mention in the review, it is too close to horror to be an enjoyable read for me.
Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams is a surprising tale that rides on the line between horror and thriller. The first half of the novel eased me into a very slow-moving, atmospheric, low-key story. The last half started, and, Woah, the tempo and plot changed into a thriller/slasher tale that pulled me into an intensity that alternated between suspense and despair in a disturbingly violent manner. I am not a big fan of scary, violent, gory tales. I am also not a big fan of snakes to the point where my Ophidiophobia has Ophidiophobia, so Hairpin Bridge was overall a struggle for me to read. However, I did appreciate the artistry and story-crafting involved in creating it. The mastery involved in telling this kind of tale is mind-blowing as there are mainly three characters, and it takes place in less than 24 hours from start to finish. I did, however, love the unreliable narrators. Lena Nguyen and Raymond Raycevic (Ray Ray) each tell their tale, and their perceptions are so grossly different and oh so believable that I had no idea which one to believe and still don’t. And Lena’s blog posts are so fresh and uniquely her voice that they are easy to read and very entertaining in their own right. Lastly, the ending gave me chills in a way and for a reason that I could have never in a million guessed, and it ultimately saved the story for me. If you are looking for an intense read that will turn you round and round and have you begging to be let off the ride, this is a reading experience you will not soon forget.