Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….
I’m quite surprised by how much I loved this? Honestly, I went in pretty much blind. I avoided all the reviews. I didn’t overthink it. I didn’t try to over analyze everything. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I really felt like this book has the perfect blend of darkness, mystery, and twists.
I can see why some people may have not liked this book, and if you read a ton of thrillers, then you may think this book was just okay. I took a break from thrillers but I made it my goal to read more thrillers this year. The Silent Patient was a great start for me, and I really do recommend this book if you’re wanting something dark and fast paced. Also, I think it really helps that the chapters were so short, because it truly made the reading fly by!
So here are the basics: Alicia is arrested for shooting her husband in the face several times. She doesn’t provide an explanation, and she remains silent throughout the entire investigation process and trial. So she’s sentenced to a psychiatric hospital called the Grove, where she continues to remain silent for the next six years — until psychotherapist Theo joins the staff, and he wants to help Alicia speak once again.
What I wasn’t expecting was this book to be (almost) entirely from Theo’s perspective. And while there are bits of Alicia’s journal entries sprinkled throughout the book, we get a lot of investigative work as Theo tries to dig up Alicia’s past and follow any breadcrumbs that could expose Alicia’s motives.
And even if you were able to predict the twists and outcome, I still felt like it was a rabbit hole that was well formulated, and the path we took to the conclusion was superbly done. I also loved how Greek mythology and art was a strong theme throughout this book.
Some things that I did find bothersome was the use of ableist terms such as “crazy” when referring to patients in the Grove. I know that’s expected in a psychological thriller that takes place in a psychiatric hospital, but please use caution if mental illness topics is a trigger for you. Also Theo likes to mention how he wants to “fix” Alicia, which is just language I find gross.
I also want to note that I listened to this book on audio and read along the book at the same time. I loved the cast in the audiobook and I truly felt like that overall enhanced my reading experience. Plus, Louise Brealey is the voice of Alicia, and I loved her so much from Sherlock (BBC)!
Possible spoilers (but not really) in trigger warnings below.
Trigger warnings: ableist terms such as “crazy”, talks of suicide, mental illness, depression, stalking, cheating, loss of a parent, abuse from a parent.