REVIEW: THE SILENT PATIENT, BY ALEX MICHAELIDES

 

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….

 

My Thoughts: In the beginning of The Silent Patient, we are offered excerpts from the diary of Alicia Berenson, the young painter who was charged with killing her husband, after which she went completely silent. Nobody anticipated these actions, so her motivation appeared to be a complete mystery. Further, in all her time at the Grove, a psychiatric unit, therapy had been unsuccessful, since she has refused to speak.

Theo Faber, the psychotherapist determined to bring about her healing, tells the story of his efforts in his first person voice. But there are vague hints along the way that suggest that there is more to his story as well. Theo’s marital difficulties are mixed up with Alicia’s story in some way, and as the journey continued, we came to question everything we had believed to be true. Murky shadows seemingly cloaked the connections between the characters and the timing of events.

To avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that nothing is quite what it seems, and at the end, you might wonder if you have stepped into a Twilight Zone. Definitely an engaging tale that kept me reading until the very end. 5 stars.

***

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