The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a psychological thriller that explores several complex themes relating to the human personality. Though I have read my fair share of thrillers, this was my first dive into the psychological thriller genre, and it was indeed a very captivating read until the end. I was hooked to the plot and read it in almost a single sitting(except for breaks for food and natural calls).
Theo Faber – a 42-year-old forensic psychotherapist, narrates the story of a woman named Alicia Berenson. The story starts with a murder committed by Alicia Berenson. She was 33 years old when she brutally killed her husband Gabriel – a fashion photographer- six years ago, and “Alicia never spoke again” and she “remained silent – but she made one statement. A painting.” “…The painting was a self-portrait. She entitled it in the bottom left- hand corner of the canvas, in light blue Greek lettering. One word: ALCESTIS.”
The defence for Alicia entered a plea of ‘diminished responsibility’ citing that – “Alicia had a long history of mental health problems, it was claimed, dating back to her childhood.” Based on the opinion of Professor Lazarus Diomedes, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Imperial College, and clinical director of The Grove, a secure forensic unit in north London, Judge accepted the plea of diminished responsibility and Alicia was subsequently admitted to The Grove for treatment thus becoming the titular ‘Silent Patient’.
Alicia’s case got extensive media coverage and caught our narrator’s attention; somehow, Theo “felt uniquely qualified to help Alicia Berenson.” And nearly six years after Alicia was admitted, the position of forensic psychotherapist became available at The Grove. As soon as Theo saw the advert, he knew he must follow his gut and apply for the job.
And soon, the story moves into two storylines and occasional revelations from Alicia’s personal diary. One storyline focuses on Theo’s attempts to strike a conversation with Alicia to get to the truth of the incident, and another on the relationship between Theo and his wife, Kathy.
As the story progresses, we learn about Theo’s psychological baggage and the different psychological traumas faced by Alicia. Theo makes it a personal quest to uncover the truth and develop a communication channel with Alicia as he thinks ‘only he can make her speak.’
What follows in this quest is a thrilling psychological ride into the complex characters of Theo and Alicia, which is sure to keep the readers on their edge. A hair-rising and nail-biting twist follow the plot. Towards the end, readers learn the reason for Theo’s ‘unique qualification, ‘ which places him in a unique stand to help Alicia. How the stories of both characters entangle and cross over is a central plot point of the story that gives goosebumps to the readers.
The story has minor inconsistencies, and once the twist and central plot become clear, some plot points seem forced upon the readers. But these are minor inconsistencies that in no way ruin the plot’s thrill or overall entertainment value. Towards the end, Alex Michaelides provides a fitting and satisfactory ending to this thriller. The story will keep the readers entertained and on the edge of their seats.
- Total pages: 342
- Genre: Psychological Thriller
- The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides