Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publication date: 7th February 2019
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Only she knows what happened.
Only I can make her speak.
I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think-
No. I won’t write about that.
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.
Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.
And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?“
“You become increasingly comfortable with madness – and not just the madness of others, but your own. We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”
I have been waiting for a psychological thriller to blow me away for years. Endings almost never shock me and I can see twists coming from miles away. Throw in a few unlikable characters and a shaky plot and it’s no surprise that my disappointment grows with every psychological thriller I finish. Although there have been a few pleasant surprises over the years, nothing can quite compare to The Silent Patient.
The writing in The Silent Patient is articulate and succinct. The author develops Alicia’s voice, or lack thereof, in a compelling way through the use of her diary, and the jump from the first-person journal narrative leading up to the murder to Theo’s current point of view is incredibly effective. Although Alicia chooses not to speak, she still remains a vocal character through the use of her body language and attitude which I found to be one of the most powerful and impressive aspects in the beginning of the book.
When it comes to characters in psychological thrillers I am always intrigued by mysterious characters who seem to be hiding something and both Theo and Alicia fit perfectly in this category. It was clear from the start that Alicia had been through a traumatic event but it was frustrating that so little information was shared to explain why she refused to speak. This concept puzzled me the entire time and I was both mindful of the possibility that she is the enemy and concerned that she could be a tormented victim not yet ready to speak the truth. Theo was just as complex and the simplicity of his backstory had me question his intentions and interest in Alicia. Ultimately it was the intensity of the interactions between these two characters which impressed me and had me swiftly flipping the pages.
Without a doubt my favourite part of The Silent Patient was the ending. With each chapter I was sure that I was closer to finding out the truth about the murder of Alicia’s husband and a few chapters before the end I was almost certain that I had figured it out. I have never been so stunned by an ending before. I had to read it back several times and still couldn’t believe it. It stayed with me for a long time afterwards and with time I recalled several hints which were revealed but which I didn’t pick up on. The ease with which Alex Michaelides reveals these signs is astonishing and he deserves all the praise for this skill.
The Silent Patient consists of all the necessary ingredients for a gripping psychological thriller: a cast of complex characters, a plot thick with tension and a compelling mystery begging to be solved. It held my attention until the very end and left me with the conclusive feeling that this is one of the best books in its genre. Readers who relish unforeseen twists and unexpected endings will find a lot to love here.
“Perhaps some of us are simply born evil, and despite our best efforts we remain that way.”