The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides has been getting a lot of buzz since it was announced, and I was excited to finally get it. I ordered it as part of my April Book of the Month box (along with The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker… I certainly was in a mood that day, wasn’t I?), and following my last read – Scottish mystery thriller The Missing Girls by Lexie Elliott – I was ready for some more thrills and chills. And what a page-turner this book was! I read it obsessively, finishing it in barely a week (which, given my hectic life, is quite the feat).
Who is the titular Silent Patient? We get to know her – Alicia Berenson – in pieces. The book opens with a brief diary entry she wrote a month before the murder. She tells herself, “No crazy thoughts allowed,” piquing our curiosity at why she, just weeks later, shot her beloved husband in the face five times. She had no known reason or motive, and to further befuddle the whole situation, Alicia goes completely silent from that moment forward.
From here, most of the book is told in the past tense by Alicia’s new psychotherapist, Theo Faber. It’s been six years since the murder, six years since Alicia spoke, and Theo hopes he can help her heal and get her speaking again. He accepts a new position at The Grove, the secure forensic unit where Alicia has been kept all these years.
Theo sheds a light on the facts of Alicia’s crime and her medical condition now, but his mission to heal her leads him to the family and friends that once knew Alicia. What can any of these people reveal that would explain her crime? Moreover, what do they know that could get her talking again? Theo may be a psychotherapist, but behaves more and more like a detective as he works on Alicia’s case.
In addition to Alicia’s current condition, The Silent Patient also dives into Theo Faber’s personal life, revealing issues he and his wife Kathy are having. We get to see why Theo pursued this career in the first place and how he still needs guidance from his own therapist. His story seems like a distraction from Alicia’s main plot, but as the book moves on, they become more intertwined.
In between all of this, we also get flashbacks to Alicia in the weeks leading up to the murder. We get to read her diary entries, experience how lonely she felt, how a stalker no one else believed existed was haunting her. Alicia’s own mental health history made others wonder if she was seeing someone who wasn’t really there, even if her fear felt completely real.
All of this leads up to a stunning end, complete with a thoroughly unexpected plot twist. Of all the twisty books I’ve read over the years, this one was among the most delightfully shocking by the end of it.
The Silent Patient is an incredible debut from Alex Michaelides, and it will be exciting to read more of his books in the coming years. For now, be sure to give this thriller a read – it will be worth every second!