The Blurb (from Goodreads):
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 love a good psychological thriller, and The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides has been gaining a lot of buzz. The premise really intrigued me – a psychologist is obsessed with a young woman who shot her husband dead and then never speaks another word. I’ve always been interested in selective mutism, having had troubles of my own in this area, and so I was eager to read a book which features it.
The book is told from the first-person point-of-view of the psychologist, Theo Faber. He takes a job at The Grove, a secure psychiatric hospital in London, in the hope of being able to work with this silent patient – even though The Grove is in financial trouble and the job is perhaps not very secure.
Alicia Berenson has not responded well to treatment. Despite all attempts to reach her, she remains silent. Before she killed her husband, she was a well-known artist. There were no signs of any psychological cracks – she was beautiful, talented, and seemingly happily married. No-one can understand what led her to tie her husband up, then shoot him five times in the face. It’s seemingly inexplicable.
Theo’s journey to fathom the dark depths of Alicia’s psyche is told in brief, swift, compelling chapters, occasionally interspersed with excerpts from her hidden diary. The novel is literally un-put-down-able – I don’t think I’ve ever raced through a book so fast. And it has a cracker of a plot twist. I usually see such narrative surprises a mile off, but this one took my breath away. Absolutely brilliant!
You might also like to read my review of The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan: