When Theo, a psychotherapist, applies to work at The Grove, a mental hospital on the outskirts of London, he knows exactly what he’s getting himself into. He knows that The Grove may go bankrupt any day due to lack of funding and that it’s being overseen by a strict medical board. He also knows that Alicia Berenson, The Grove’s most famous patient, hasn’t spoken since her husband’s vicious murder years before, and Theo is determined to get her to speak.
It’s an intriguing premise for a book, and debut novelist Alex Michaelides’s resulting thriller is indeed a page-turner. The reader meets both Theo and Alicia first-hand: Theo as the narrator, and Alicia through her diary, which begins in the month prior to her husband’s death.
Theo clearly crosses the line between therapist and investigator as he searches for clues as to why Alicia pulled the trigger. She was found guilty of her husband’s murder after being found in the house next to his body. A renowned painter, Alicia produced a shocking and fascinating self-portrait prior to her arrest for the crime.
As Theo digs deeper into Alicia’s past, we meet the staff of The Grove, as well as the celebrity patient’s extended family members and the local community that supported her artwork. Will he solve the mystery about why she killed her husband before he losing the chance to get her to talk?
There is a LOT of hype around The Silent Patient. I mean, a lot. So my expectations were pretty high when I cracked the book open… I’ll say that, for the most part, they were met. Yes, there’s a shocking twist. There are quite a few shady characters, causing the reader to cast a wide net of suspicion as they progress through the book. I’ve read some criticisms of the writing style but think that there’s a reason Michaelides crafted his prose in the way that he did — it adds to the narrative of Theo, at least.
This was a book where, once I burned through the ending, I wanted to go back and re-read it to see pieces I may have missed that led to the final outcome… but there are so many good books out there! So I doubt I will. I can see it coming to life on the big screen, and I’m sure some film studio has already scooped up the rights. The Silent Patient has been compared to The Girl on the Trainand even The Woman Next Door, and it’s certainly on par with both as far as the thriller aspect. It was exciting, creepy, just a bit disturbing, and even more — dare I say politically correct? — than a lot of “mental health” thrillers on the market… Alex Michaelides takes into account the business angles of how a mental health facility is run, the lives of the patients, how medication can be problematic, the motivations of clinicians and the oversight of the facilities.
All in all, a fascinating read. I recommend it 🙂