A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Silent Patient


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 PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a 2019 Celadon Books publication.

When this book first started to garner a little buzz, I initially shied away from it. I am still avoiding psychological thrillers for the most part. However, the reviews were so overwhelmingly positive I relented, adding it to my TBR list. After a lengthy wait at the library, I finally obtained a copy, and dived in with no small amount of cautious optimism. Was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype?

The set- up is instantly intriguing-

Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist is oddly obsessed with the well- respected artist, Alicia Berenson, a patient housed in a forensic unit after shooting her husband five times in the face. She hasn’t uttered a word since. Theo sacrifices better and more lucrative opportunities in hopes of becoming her therapist. As he manipulates his way into Alicia’s life, his determination to unlock the secrets of her heart and mind slowly yields a few surprising results. However, all his probing could have a few unforeseen consequences...

Anyone who has read a review for this book has, by now, heard about the stunning twist that apparently caught most readers off guard. But, let’s not get too hung up on the twist. In my humble opinion, a mind -blowing twist is a requirement of any and all psychological thrillers. What makes a twist work in the first place is the mystery.

Did Alicia kill her husband, as all the evidence suggests? If so, what was her motive? Why hasn’t she uttered a single word in all these years? This is a compelling mystery. Alicia an enigma, to be sure. This is unsettling enough on its own merits.

However, the author also examines some hard truths about institutions that rely on funding, which leads to money and power taking precedent over the welfare and health of the patients. Adding in yet another rich layer is the unique and quite interesting mythological parallel woven into the story.

It is easy to step into Theo’s narrative as he slowly walks us through Alicia’s past, dropping hints and clues along the way, introducing us to all the possible suspects, while delving into Alicia’s fragile psyche.

But, if I am being totally honest, the plot is not all that plausible, and at times the execution warbles. There are some problems within the story, but in my humble opinion, this is how a pure psychological thriller should be presented. The author relies on paranoia and the emotional instability of the characters to build suspense as opposed to grisly, graphic crime scenes. It’s a mind game from start to finish.

Now, about that twist-

The most important thing to me was that it was singular. No over the top, unnecessary twists added for mere shock value. A good PT doesn’t need more than one, maybe two, depending on the author’s experience or the situation- in my opinion.

In this case, the reader is totally blindsided, tapped on the shoulder from behind, by a revelation, so shocking, I’ll bet some of you gasped out loud. I know I did! It messed with your head, right? Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!!

Of course, after all that buildup and the success of the big plot twist, the ending had to come together, or all was for naught. I was a little concerned for a few minutes, but honestly, the conclusion was the cherry on the cake.

The book was worth waiting for, but I am glad I proceeded with caution and kept my expectations in check. The story is not quite strong enough to merit a five -star rating, but I appreciated the pure, traditional understated approach. The author wisely dialed things back, distancing himself from the over-saturated parodies many current psychological thrillers have become. I hope the popularity of this book will inspire more authors to follow this more authentic prototype and restore the psychological thriller back to its former glory.






Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. He has a MA in English Literature from Cambridge University and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient is his first novel.

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