The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides #BookReview #BlogTour

Alicia Berenson is a successful artist with a famous fashion photographer husband, Gabriel. They appear to have the perfect marriage, until Alicia is accused of brutally murdering her husband, shooting him several times in the head.  She has refused to speak since. She is sent to The Grove, a secure psychiatric unit in North London, and seen as an isolated and sometimes violent figure who is impossible to cure. Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far bigger, a mystery that captures the public imagination and turns Alicia into a notorious figure in the media.

Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist, has wanted to work with Alicia for a long time, convinced that he could persuade her to open up, thereby helping her to integrate and come to terms with what she did and unravelling the mystery of what happened the night that she killed her husband. When Theo is offered a job at The Grove, he seizes the opportunity knowing that he will meet Alicia. Despite cynical opposition from the top he claims that he can help her to speak again and puts a plan in place to do just that. From there unfolds the most remarkable thriller with a twist at the end that nobody could possibly predict.

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of The Silent Patient today. Many thanks to Alex Michaelides, Orion Books and Midas PR for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.

I don’t think anybody who enjoys reading crime fiction could have missed the buzz around The Silent Patient this year. It first came to my attention when I read the rave reviews it received when it was released in hardback. More recently, it was awarded Best Mystery & Thriller in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards.
The plot of The Silent Patient is centred on Alicia Berenson who was found guilty of shooting her husband dead, and subsequently sentenced to a secure psychiatric unit. Unable or unwilling to speak since the murder, she is kept on a high dose of pills, with any chance of release looking to be a very unlikely prospect. When psychotherapist, Theo Faber takes a keen interest in her case and leaves his job at Broadmoor to come and work at The Grove, she may finally have somebody who will help her find her voice again. He tries to figure out a way to reach his silent patient, damned by many as an evil killer. Is there more to her story and what really happened that fateful night?
Although Alicia is silent now, she still has a voice of sorts through the diary she kept before Gabriel Berenson's death. Through her words, which describe the days leading up to his murder and her state of mind at this time, a picture slowly emerges of a rather vulnerable, damaged woman. This one-sided form of communication does mean that she's an unreliable narrator but her account of how others responded to her concerns and fears mean that despite the crime she was found guilty of perpetrating, suggests she may deserve a more sympathetic appraisal - albeit with a note of caution as she undoubtedly has a rage inside her which explodes into violence on occasion. Alex Michaelides cleverly ensures there is always a sense of doubt about Alicia; was she was manipulated by somebody else or is she the manipulator? As more is revealed about her complicated past, there are perturbing questions raised as to whether she was actually more sinned against than sinning.
Alicia's trial was a high profile case which caught the public eye and so it isn't surprising perhaps that psychologist, Theo Faber should be intrigued by her plight. Along with scores of other people, he goes to view her sole communication after her husband's death; Alcestis is her self-portrait painting which she created after Gabriel was killed and which many saw as proof of her evil. Theo, however, takes a more nuanced view and feels a profound empathy with her. Six years after she was admitted to The Grove, he takes up the role of forensic psychotherapist there, believing he is the only person who is able to help her. It soon becomes apparent that his desire to reach out to Alicia is likely due to his own damaged past. His own many years of therapy led to him choosing his career path but as he attempts to understand more about her history, there is an increasingly unsettling sense that he has become obsessed with her. His troubled home life and the gambles he is prepared to take to uncover the truth, even if it means he risks his career - or worse - should mean readers root for him but as the novel progresses, there comes a chilling suspicion that he is crossing boundaries between patient and clinician. His investigation into her former life leads to him meeting faces from her past but it's never quite clear who he - or indeed she - could trust.
The reliability of Alicia's friends and family and their reluctance to assist Theo aren't the only barriers he comes up against and The Silent Patient is also a fascinating inside look at life inside a secure psychiatric unit. Theo clashes with colleagues who advocate a more drug based regime for her rather than the talking therapy he believes in but perhaps the most pressing issue is the urgent demand for results. Like many such institutions, The Grove is threatened with closure and the book also reflects some of the sad realities of psychiatric care which sees clinical directors and financial managers at odds over what is considered a successful outcome for patients.
The twists and turns result in a feverish mix of obsession and paranoia but even though there is doubt cast throughout the story as to what really happened, the climactic reveal is both shocking and painful to read. The Silent Patient is one of those books where I'm not sure I really liked any of the characters and yet I was utterly compelled to keep reading about their chaotic. damaged lives. The plotting is clever throughout but I particularly enjoyed the links to Euripedes' play, Alcestis which added a satisfyingly perplexing dimension to the mystery. Alex Michaelides' debut novel is a sharply observed, beautifully paced thriller which kept me absolutely gripped from the first page until the devastating conclusion.

The Silent Patient is published in the UK by Orion Books and will be out in paperback on 12th December 2019. Purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. He read English at Cambridge University and received a MA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. He wrote the film Devil You Know, starring Rosamund Pike, and co-wrote The Con is On, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. The Silent Patient, his first novel, is a Sunday Times, New York Times, Australian and Irish bestseller.
Twitter  Instagram