Alex Michaelides’s first novel (he’s already a successful screenwriter) has been called Hitchcock-ian in its claustrophobic suspense. It investigates the mind of a criminal rather than a crime – not so much a whodunit as a what-on-earth-really-happened-here?
It’s an exceptionally gripping tale, confidently executed; a tense exploration of the psyches of a woman convicted of murdering her husband and the therapist determined to break the absolute silence into which she has retreated.
Alicia Berenson is a famous painter blissfully married to a celebrated fashion photographer. They live a blessed life in a beautiful big house in one of London’s most desirable neighbourhoods.
One evening, Alicia’s husband, Gabriel, comes home late from a fashion shoot and Alicia shoots him five times in the face.
Alicia refuses point-blank to speak to the police. Throughout her entire trial, she utters not a word. After her conviction, incarcerated in a secure psychiatric institution ‘The Grove’, she continues with her absolute silence.
This captures the public’s imagination, and the price of her art works shoots sky-high.
Why did she do it, everyone speculates. Will we ever know? Her mysterious silence turns her into a strange celebrity and among those obsessed with her story is Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist regarded as gifted in his profession. He’s waited a long time for the chance to get a job at The Grove, and when he does he is determined to make Alicia talk.
Theo Faber is an interesting character. His motivation in treating Alicia is deep. He is searching for the truth about himself as well as his patient. Obviously he wants to help her – and yet… ?
Theo’s investigation into Alicia’s past is exhaustive. He delves behind the lives of many of her old contacts, both personal and professional. Theo himself is engaging, young, moralistic, determined to make sure all inmates at The Grove are treated decently. He’s willing to make enemies of colleagues who he judges to be callous or harsh. We like him. And we’re not surprised when it seems Alicia starts to like him too; that she is beginning to thaw.
By looks and gestures, she indicates she might soon talk to Theo. This is very exciting for him – a huge coup, both professionally and personally, for he has become drawn to Alicia and increasingly fond of her.
The ending of The Silent Patient is deeply shocking and totally unexpected. This is a beautiful, deep, complex book filled with high-octane tension. It’s also highly original – neither of us can recall reading a fresher take on a psychological thriller.
The book has already topped the bestseller lists in the US, and it’s also being made into a hotly-anticipated movie. We’re both sure it’ll be a massive hit.