The key to writing a great psychological thriller is to build slowly toward a big surprise, leaving clues along the way but without revealing what’s really going on. Gillian Flynn famously achieved this with Gone Girl, just as Alfred Hitchcock had done so many times on film decades before her. There are many such examples. But a recent standout bestseller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, isn’t one of them. As Kirkus noted in its review, the book is “Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.”
Thirty-three-year-old London artist Alicia Berenson is the Silent Patient. She has been confined to a high-security psychiatric facility following the murder of her husband — because ever since that moment Alicia has remained mute. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word, not in her own defense, and not in response to six years of effort by the psychiatric staff at The Grove. But a forensic psychotherapist, newly arrived there, believes he can reach her.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019) 297 pages @@@½ (3½ out of 5)
Theo Faber “thought it obvious that she had suffered a severe trauma surrounding Gabriel’s death; and this silence was a manifestation of that trauma.” And it’s not long before Theo manages to get a rise out of her. However, as his treatment of Alicia proceeds, it quickly becomes clear that Theo has problems of his own. Since this is, indeed, a psychological thriller, expect a big surprise at the end — assuming you haven’t figured it out long before then. It may not be exactly what you thought it was, but close enough.
For additional reading
You might also enjoy my posts:
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers;
- 5 top novels about private detectives; and
- Two dozen outstanding detective series from around the world.
For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.