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….
Author: Alex Michaelides | Publisher: Celadon Books
“We are made up of different parts, some good, some bad, and a healthy mind can tolerate this ambivalence and juggle both good and bad at the same time. Mental illness is precisely about a lack of this kind of integration — we end up losing contact with the unacceptable parts of ourselves.”
I don’t usually choose to read thrillers. I like them okay once I’m in the middle of them, but it takes a lot of my emotional energy to commit to a roller coaster like that. (It’s why I had to stop watching Scandal, and why I don’t like it when sports go into overtime, lol.) But I picked up The Silent Patient because it had great reviews that claimed it really did something different and surprising. And I did really like it!
The main character — the one who is most often in the first-person perspective — is Theo, a psychotherapist. He feels called to help a woman named Alicia, who randomly killed her husband, apparently without motive, and then never spoke another word. So he lands a job at the facility where she is cared for. Thus begins his hunt (detective style) into clues about her childhood so he can try to understand her psychological state before the murder. This investigation takes him on quite a trip, and it’s not all by the books. Theo himself had a tough childhood, and he is quite compelled by the power of psychotherapy, which helped him.
We also have passages from Alicia’s diary, which she kept in the months leading up to the murder. We begin to get hints that not all is as it seemed, and we also begin to question pretty much everything that the narrators and other characters have said. It spins and spins to a conclusion that seems obvious in hindsight but was truly exciting to build toward.
There were a lot of references to Greek tragedy in this novel, which I really appreciated. Of course, the author is Greek, so that makes sense, but as a theatre kid who read Alcestis in college, I loved it. Although I will say that didn’t actually help me crack the mystery.
This book is ~325 pages, and I read it in one day. Honestly, that’s the best way to read a thriller I think. Definitely recommend to all those who like these psychological mysteries!