Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list upon publication in 2019, sending readers down a quickfire page-turning journey. Fueled by an intensely fast-paced narrative, The Silent Patient never lets up, giving psychological thriller fans their next ~300 page obsession.
One night, artist Alicia Berenson greets her husband Gabriel after he returns home from work by promptly firing five rounds into his face. After the murder, Alicia refuses to speak and lives out her days in a psychiatric facility, completely silent. Theo Faber gets a job at The Grove, where Alicia is being treated and takes her on as his patient in the hopes that he can discover exactly what happened that night and unravel Alicia’s trauma so she may speak again. What he finds, as the book’s jacket flap will tell you, “threatens to consume him.”
The Silent Patient fits neatly into the thriller genre. There’s no fantasy or sci-fi elements here, but the speedy plot makes this a novel worth your time, even if you typically prefer swords, space, or sorcery. Alicia’s story, hidden away behind her veil of silence, lends a certain mystique to The Silent Patient’s proceedings, and Michaelides does an exquisite job of ushering the reader through the book’s many mysteries.
In true thriller form, plot plays the starring role in The Silent Patient. The characters act as a driving force to push the narrative along, serving as well-defined archetypes. Naturally, a few key characters are excellent red herrings as Michaelides doles out answers to reader questions. You won’t find in-depth descriptions of the characters’ appearances or desires for the most part. Instead, you’ll get vignettes as they spend time with Theo Faber, who mostly narrates the tale. These vignettes are interlaced with occasional excerpts from Alicia’s diary, which contextualize the story and give her a voice despite her choice to be silent.
As much as I’d like to discuss the plot in this review, I simply can’t. It’s the entire crux of the novel, and to give away even small bits and pieces could be perceived as significant spoilers. Instead, I’ll give you some reading-speed context to showcase just how quickly I wanted to finish this book and encounter the final twist. Normally, I read a ~300 page book in a week or so, usually over three to six individual sessions. I finished The Silent Patient in two days, two sittings. And the second one (about 150 pages) was on an hour-long plane ride during which my friend chatted with the dude across the aisle for the entire flight. Despite the distractions and less-than-ideal reading environment, I trucked along right to the end, far surpassing my normal reading clip, which often settles around 50 pages per hour.
In essence, that’s a paragraph-long way of telling you that this book reads incredibly fast. And that makes it an easy choice, even if thrillers aren’t normally your jam. The Silent Patient was genuinely riveting from the very first page to the very last, and it was a nice break from my typical character-heavy fantasies and sci-fis.
I wish I could tell you more, but it wouldn’t feel right. If you’re a mood reader who wants something fast, fun, and mysterious, The Silent Patient will almost certainly scratch that itch.
Rating: The Silent Patient – 8.5/10