In his debut novel, “The Silent Patient,” author Alex Michaelides presents a psychological thriller sure to be welcomed by readers fond of this genre. Twists and turns, a startling finish, and main characters burdened with ominous emotional stress make this a book readers won’t easily forget.
Theo Farber is a psychotherapist living with his wife in London when he is drawn to a new job at a psychiatric hospital. He feels he can connect with a patient there who’s been hospitalized for six years but has not spoken one word since her admittance.
The patient, Alicia, is a respected painter whose work became more valuable after she was determined to be the murderess of her more famous photographer husband. The gruesome murder was sensationalized by the press.
No one on the medical staff has been able to communicate with Alicia through verbal exchanges, and all have given up on her. When Theo asks to be given the chance to work with her, his superiors agree to give him the opportunity—a futile effort, they believe.
Woven throughout the book is the story of Theo’s own marriage to a woman who is cheating on him. Rejected by an alcoholic, abusive father, Theo is devastated by evidence of this disloyalty. Upon finding out about a series of betrayals in his patient’s life, he is sure he can emotionally connect with Alicia since they have a common background permeated with psychological wounds.
Alicia does begin to communicate verbally with Theo. However, she has ulterior motives that are not revealed until the final chapters. However shattered, wary, and over-medicated she appears, Alicia is not so far gone that she can’t literally write the ending to her own story.
Various characters who have reasons to have killed Alicia’s husband appear in the story. None are exemplary figures. Their own brief backgrounds are presented well enough that the reader understands them, but their stories do not take over the main narrative.
Fans of “Gone Girl” and “Sharp Objects,” both by Gillian Flynn, and of the classic flicks, “Vertigo” and “Psycho,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, will enjoy this book. I look forward to more novels by this new author.