Review: The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides

Publisher: Celadon Books

Release date: February 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 3 stars

” Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.”

So goes the blurb. And it is an intriguing premise. Will Alicia speak? Why did she shoot her husband? Why is she silent? And so on. As I said, intriguing. So I was keen to read this one. Sadly, the execution didn’t live up to the premise. It’s not a bad book, just disappointing.

Here’s the first problem I had. When people start talking about “a twist you won’t see coming” in a thriller, you can’t help but imagine all the possible twists when you start reading it yourself. And then, if you have read many thrillers, yes, you will see it coming and probably from quite a long way off too.

Sometimes this doesn’t matter too much. The book may be engaging enough that you enjoy it, even enjoy the inevitability of what you know is coming.

Unfortunately, The Silent Patient wasn’t that book for me. There just wasn’t enough there to carry my interest through all those pages. The characters weren’t compelling enough, for one thing.

In the case of Alicia, I admit there’s an intrinsic problem for the author in trying to make her interesting in the ‘present’, as he can’t give us her point of view at all, but what about her diary entries before that? She seems to have no personality. Yes, there is a reason given for this, too, but it’s a writer’s job to solve those kinds of problems.

As for Theo, I can think of several other novels where a similar character is portrayed so much better. I just never connected with him at all and I think it is the author’s intention that we do connect with him. The scenes in the care facility, where he engages with other staff, were just deadly dull to me.

I’m giving this novel 3 stars because it is well-written and cleverly plotted and I did want to read it to the end to see exactly how it played out, but overall my enjoyment level was probably more like 2.5.

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