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….
The Silent Patient starts with the shocking murder of Gabriel Berenson, tied to a chair and shot in the face five times by his wife, Alicia. The police find her covered in blood, having tried to cut her own wrists. A clear-cut case, it seems. Alicia is taken into custody and ends up in a secure psychiatric unit where she doesn’t speak a single word for the next six years.
Enter Theo Faber, a psychotherapist who has worked hard to get the chance to work with Alicia. He’s convinced that he can make her talk and uncover the truth of what happened on that hot summer night, six years ago.
The Silent Patient is a splendid psychological thriller with some fantastically complex characters and a neat ability to make you think ‘aha! got it!’, only for you to realise a dozen pages later that no, you haven’t. I thought I had it figured out a few times and got kind of close, ish. But the ending is one of those neatly satisfying ones which make you want to flick back and see exactly how it was done.
I really liked the structure of the book too, jumping from Alicia’s diaries to Theo’s perspective, each throwing new light on the events of that fateful night. It was one of those books which you find yourself having to read in one go. Make sure you’ve got plenty of biscuits and a really big mug of tea!
Huge thanks to Poppy Stimpson and Orion for the advance copy of The Silent Patient to review.