Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…
Twelve hours ago I was preparing to give The Silent Patient a scathing review. Now, I kinda have a book hangover. That weird feeling where you’ve been on an adventure, full of unexpected encounters and emotions all over the place, but now there’s nothing but you and a cup of coffee that isn’t giving you the same kind of high as the book did.
I’d had The Silent Patient on my Kindle for over two weeks, which is some kind of record for me. Nothing lasts long once it is on there. However, I had picked it up several times and barely made it through the first few chapters. It almost ended up in the DNF category and I managed to read 3 other books before giving it one last shot. You see, the first chunk of the book is all about the psychotherapist Theo and how his multifaceted background put him in the position to be able to work with Alicia, the silent murderess sat behind the redbrick walls of The Grove.
It’s a slog before you really sink your teeth into the meat of the story. I’m actually glad I persevered.
The Silent Patient is a dark and twisted psychological thriller about Alicia Berenson, who hasn’t spoken since the night of her husband’s murder 6 years prior, and Theo Faber her psychotherapist whose building obsession towards makes for a wild tale. His interest in her story has been a focal point since the day she was found standing over Gabriel’s mangled body with her wrists cut and nothing to say in her defence. Nothing to say about it at all.
Theo joined The Grove, a psychiatric facility housing the criminally insane, with only one goal in mind. To help Alicia speak. To uncover the truth of why she killed her husband. He’d watched the news reports with avid interest when she had been arrested, read about her trial, and even visited the gallery where her final painting hung. The piece named ‘Alcestis‘ and created after the murder. Her final statement on the matter, it seems.
In unveiling pieces of Alicia’s background, Theo’s own life draws some clear parallels. His obsession grows as he relates more and more to her. Often warned by other professionals around him that Alicia, even while still silent, is ‘seducing’ him by playing her own cat and mouse game he still upends everyone in her past in search of answers. What he finds is the fruition of seeds planted many years ago.
Alex Michaelides created a world where every character plays a part, whether it be the clinic manager trying to save The Grove from being shut down, the seemingly aloof coworker, or the usher selling drugs to patients. Every encounter and every bit of spoken narrative is relevant. The reader isn’t sent on a goose-chase with fake clues, they are quite literally watching a bud unfold and blossom with a dark beauty. The ending unfolds organically.
After the slow start, this became a true page-turner and I finished it within a couple of hours. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars simply because the beginning could have used a little more revision. The author could have interspersed little tidbits to keep us salivating for Alicia’s tale while laying the groundwork for Theo’s own.
Where to buy:
This book is currently available on Amazon in paperback or on the Kindle Store.
Alternatively you can get it at The Book Depository for purchase in your local currency.
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Kindle – £3.99
Paperback – £5.99
The Book Depository
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