The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I opened the window and reached out my hand. I caught a snowflake. I watched it disappear, vanish from my fingertip. I smiled. And I went to catch another one.

The Silent Patient

I don’t read a book out of sympathy or empathy. I don’t read a book because someone’s a friend or a foe. I don’t read to brag or come across as an intellectual. Both of which I secretly detest. Well, no secret now…is it?

Often, I have discarded books purchased on amazon because I couldn’t get through the first chapter. Sometimes not even the first two pages. I am impatient. I am looking for a spark. A unique twist; an edge; a glittering thought or concept.

I don’t mind settling for an average story line — most romance novels have an average plot — so do many hyped and over-marketed thrillers and psychological thrillers (my preferred genres). I don’t read horror — although I want to dig into Stephen King sometime soon. My only fear is will he be a match to Edgar Allan Poe? A writer I deeply respect.

Anyway, when it comes to books what I can’t settle for or agree to is lazy writing. Lack lustre sub plots and characters. And of course, stealing of story ideas, character graphs and denouement.

After years of reading and pondering, I have now within me a well-installed crap-tracker. And it won’t tolerate stale nonsense that’s sold and churned out, every other day.

When I picked up The Silent Patient, a few of my friends and book reviewers told me that it’s an excellent read, raising my expectations even further. So a lot was at stake. In my mind. A lot had to be delivered. And boy was I stunned! My crap-tracker was duly slapped and silenced for a while.

Here’s why.

Theo is damaged. Alicia is damaged too. The only difference between the two is that one is a patient, the other a doctor — a forensic psychiatrist.

Alicia shot her husband. Point blank with his gun. And then turned silent. Her silence is potent but confusing. No one knows if she actually committed the gruesome murder or if she is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit.

Theo who has been following the case and is a promising physiotherapist wants to find out why.

So he joins the Grove, a psychiatric unit which is about to be shut down to find out about the enigmatic and silent Alicia. A step viewed by his seniors and peers as career suicide.

Where the others have failed, Theo finds unique ways of getting through to Alicia. One of which is by allowing her to paint and interpreting her paintings. After all, Alicia is a renowned painter.

Through her paintings and by tracking her life and the people in it, Theo aims to save Alicia. But who will save Theo? A man who is not only fighting the ghastly demons of his past but is in reality a defeated husband yet to come to terms with his wife’s infidelity.

What happens to Alicia and Theo? Do they survive the darkness that has crippled them? More importantly, do they survive each other?

Using references of Greek tragedy, Alex Michaelides weaves a story which is gripping and stunningly original. Yes, it’s a psychological thriller. Yes, it’s domestic noir too. The trappings and mechanics of it are all too obvious.

But, but, and here’s why this book breaks new ground like Gone Girl, there is something inherently sophisticated about it. The crime; the motive; the resolution aims at unearthing the fathomless human mind. In all its complicity.

Unlike pulp thrillers which rely on the how and who of the crime; or numerous other psychological thrillers, which feed on the domestic undercurrents of a married couple to mount a story — The Silent Patient takes inspiration from the tried and tested, but ends up doing something starkly different and awe-inducing.

I am not going to give the story away. Suffices to say that the ending reminded me of Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. If you know your Christie, you must have figured it all out.

But then, it’s not the resolution that will startle you here, but the way it has been redefined and presented.

A must read.

What’s my rating on a scale of 1-5?


Buy The Silent Patient on amazon

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