The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient

by Alex Michaelides

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250301697
Publisher: Celadon Books
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 19
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Greek-Cypriot father and an English mother. He studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

ALICIA BERENSON WAS THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD when she killed her husband.

They had been married for seven years. They were both artists — Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer. He had a distinctive style, shooting semi-starved, semi-naked women in strange, unflattering angles. Since his death, the price of his photographs has increased astronomically. I find his stuff rather slick and shallow, to be honest. It has none of the visceral quality of Alicia's best work. I don't know enough about art to say whether Alicia Berenson will stand the test of time as a painter. Her talent will always be overshadowed by her notoriety, so it's hard to be objective. And you might well accuse me of being biased. All I can offer is my opinion, for what it's worth. And to me, Alicia was a kind of genius. Apart from her technical skill, her paintings have an uncanny ability to grab your attention — by the throat, almost — and hold it in a viselike grip.

Gabriel Berenson was murdered six years ago. He was forty-four years old. He was killed on the twenty-fifth of August — it was an unusually hot summer, you may remember, with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded. The day he died was the hottest of the year.

On the last day of his life, Gabriel rose early. A car collected him at 5:15 a.m. from the house he shared with Alicia in northwest London, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and he was driven to a shoot in Shoreditch. He spent the day photographing models on a rooftop for Vogue.

Not much is known about Alicia's movements. She had an upcoming exhibition and was behind with her work. It's likely she spent the day painting in the summerhouse at the end of the garden, which she had recently converted into a studio. In the end, Gabriel's shoot ran late, and he wasn't driven home until eleven p.m.

Half an hour later, their neighbor, Barbie Hellmann, heard several gunshots. Barbie phoned the police, and a car was dispatched from the station on Haverstock Hill at 11:35 p.m. It arrived at the Berensons' house in just under three minutes.

The front door was open. The house was in pitch-black darkness; none of the light switches worked. The officers made their way along the hallway and into the living room. They shone torches around the room, illuminating it in intermittent beams of light. Alicia was discovered standing by the fireplace. Her white dress glowed ghostlike in the torchlight. Alicia seemed oblivious to the presence of the police. She was immobilized, frozen — a statue carved from ice — with a strange, frightened look on her face, as if confronting some unseen terror.

A gun was on the floor. Next to it, in the shadows, Gabriel was seated, motionless, bound to a chair with wire wrapped around his ankles and wrists. At first the officers thought he was alive. His head lolled slightly to one side, as if he were unconscious. Then a beam of light revealed Gabriel had been shot several times in the face. His handsome features were gone forever, leaving a charred, blackened, bloody mess. The wall behind him was sprayed with fragments of skull, brains, hair — and blood.

Blood was everywhere — splashed on the walls, running in dark rivulets along the floor, along the grain of the wooden floorboards. The officers assumed it was Gabriel's blood. But there was too much of it. And then something glinted in the torchlight — a knife was on the floor by Alicia's feet. Another beam of light revealed the blood spattered on Alicia's white dress. An officer grabbed her arms and held them up to the light. There were deep cuts across the veins in her wrists — fresh cuts, bleeding hard.

Alicia fought off the attempts to save her life; it took three officers to restrain her. She was taken to the Royal Free Hospital, only a few minutes away. She collapsed and lost consciousness on the way there. She had lost a lot of blood, but she survived.

The following day, she lay in bed in a private room at the hospital. The police questioned her in the presence of her lawyer. Alicia remained silent throughout the interview. Her lips were pale, bloodless; they fluttered occasionally but formed no words, made no sounds. She answered no questions. She could not, would not, speak. Nor did she speak when charged with Gabriel's murder. She remained silent when she was placed under arrest, refusing to deny her guilt or confess it.

Alicia never spoke again.

Her enduring silence turned this story from a commonplace domestic tragedy into something far grander: a mystery, an enigma that gripped the headlines and captured the public imagination for months to come.

Alicia remained silent — but she made one statement. A painting. It was begun when she was discharged from the hospital and placed under house arrest before the trial. According to the court-appointed psychiatric nurse, Alicia barely ate or slept — all she did was paint.

Normally Alicia labored weeks, even months, before embarking on a new picture, making endless sketches, arranging and rearranging the composition, experimenting with color and form — a long gestation followed by a protracted birth as each brushstroke was painstakingly applied. Now, however, she drastically altered her creative process, completing this painting within a few days of her husband's murder.

And for most people, this was enough to condemn her — returning to the studio so soon after Gabriel's death betrayed an extraordinary insensitivity. The monstrous lack of remorse of a cold-blooded killer.

Perhaps. But let us not forget that while Alicia Berenson may be a murderer, she was also an artist. It makes perfect sense — to me at least — that she should pick up her brushes and paints and express her complicated emotions on canvas. No wonder that, for once, painting came to her with such ease; if grief can be called easy.

The painting was a self-portrait. She titled it in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas, in light blue Greek lettering.

One word:

Alcestis.

CHAPTER 2

ALCESTIS IS THE HEROINE OF A GREEK MYTH. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia's situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me for some time. Until one day, the truth came to light —

But I'm going too fast. I'm getting ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning and let events speak for themselves. I mustn't color them, twist them, or tell any lies. I'll proceed step by step, slowly and cautiously. But where to begin? I should introduce myself, but perhaps not quite yet; after all, I am not the hero of this tale. It is Alicia Berenson's story, so I must begin with her — and the Alcestis.

The painting is a self-portrait, depicting Alicia in her studio at home in the days after the murder, standing before an easel and a canvas, holding a paintbrush. She is naked. Her body is rendered in unsparing detail: strands of long red hair falling across bony shoulders, blue veins visible beneath translucent skin, fresh scars on both her wrists. She's holding the paintbrush between her fingers. It's dripping red paint — or is it blood? She is captured in the act of painting — yet the canvas is blank, as is her expression. Her head is turned over her shoulder and she stares straight out at us. Mouth open, lips parted. Mute.

During the trial, Jean-Felix Martin, who managed the small Soho gallery that represented Alicia, made the controversial decision, decried by many as sensationalist and macabre, to exhibit the Alcestis. The fact that the artist was currently in the dock for killing her husband meant, for the first time in the gallery's long history, queues formed outside the entrance.

I stood in line with the other prurient art-lovers, waiting my turn by the neon-red lights of a sex shop next door. One by one, we shuffled inside. Once in the gallery, we were herded toward the painting, like an excitable crowd at a fairground making its way through a haunted house. Eventually, I found myself at the front of the line — and was confronted with the Alcestis.

I stared at the painting, staring into Alicia's face, trying to interpret the look in her eyes, trying to understand — but the portrait defied me. Alicia stared back at me — a blank mask — unreadable, impenetrable. I could divine neither innocence nor guilt in her expression.

Other people found her easier to read.

"Pure evil," whispered the woman behind me.

"Isn't she?" her companion agreed. "Cold-blooded bitch."

A little unfair, I thought — considering Alicia's guilt had yet to be proven. But in truth it was a foregone conclusion. The tabloids had cast her as a villain from the start: a femme fatale, a black widow. A monster.

The facts, such as they were, were simple: Alicia was found alone with Gabriel's body; only her fingerprints were on the gun. There was never any doubt she killed Gabriel. Why she killed him, on the other hand, remained a mystery.

The murder was debated in the media, and different theories were espoused in print and on the radio and on morning chat shows. Experts were brought in to explain, condemn, justify Alicia's actions. She must have been a victim of domestic abuse, surely, pushed too far, before finally exploding? Another theory proposed a sex game gone wrong — the husband was found tied up, wasn't he? Some suspected it was old-fashioned jealousy that drove Alicia to murder — another woman, probably? But at the trial Gabriel was described by his brother as a devoted husband, deeply in love with his wife. Well, what about money? Alicia didn't stand to gain much by his death; she was the one who had money, inherited from her father.

And so it went on, endless speculation — no answers, only more questions — about Alicia's motives and her subsequent silence. Why did she refuse to speak? What did it mean? Was she hiding something? Protecting someone? If so, who? And why?

At the time, I remember thinking that while everyone was talking, writing, arguing, about Alicia, at the heart of this frantic, noisy activity there was a void — a silence. A sphinx.

During the trial, the judge took a dim view of Alicia's persistent refusal to speak. Innocent people, Mr. Justice Alverstone pointed out, tended to proclaim their innocence loudly — and often. Alicia not only remained silent, but she showed no visible signs of remorse. She didn't cry once throughout the trial — a fact made much of in the press — her face remaining unmoved, cold. Frozen.

The defense had little choice but to enter a plea of diminished responsibility: Alicia had a long history of mental health problems, it was claimed, dating back to her childhood. The judge dismissed a lot of this as hearsay — but in the end he allowed himself to be swayed by Lazarus Diomedes, professor of forensic psychiatry at Imperial College, and clinical director of the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Professor Diomedes argued that Alicia's refusal to speak was in itself evidence of profound psychological distress — and she should be sentenced accordingly.

This was a rather roundabout way of saying something that psychiatrists don't like putting bluntly:

Diomedes was saying Alicia was mad.

It was the only explanation that made any sense: Why else tie up the man you loved to a chair and shoot him in the face at close range? And then express no remorse, give no explanation, not even speak? She must be mad.

She had to be.

In the end, Mr. Justice Alverstone accepted the plea of diminished responsibility and advised the jury to follow suit. Alicia was subsequently admitted to the Grove — under the supervision of the same Professor Diomedes whose testimony had been so influential with the judge.

If Alicia wasn't mad — that is, if her silence was merely an act, a performance for the benefit of the jury — then it had worked. She was spared a lengthy prison sentence — and if she made a full recovery, she might well be discharged in a few years. Surely now was the time to begin faking that recovery? To utter a few words here and there, then a few more; to slowly communicate some kind of remorse? But no. Week followed week, month followed month, then the years passed — and still Alicia didn't speak.

There was simply silence.

And so, with no further revelation forthcoming, the disappointed media eventually lost interest in Alicia Berenson. She joined the ranks of other briefly famous murderers; faces we remember, but whose names we forget.

Not all of us. Some people — myself included — continued to be fascinated by the mystery of Alicia Berenson and her enduring silence. As a psychotherapist, I thought it obvious that she had suffered a severe trauma surrounding Gabriel's death; and this silence was a manifestation of that trauma. Unable to come to terms with what she had done, Alicia stuttered and came to a halt, like a broken car. I wanted to help start her up again — help Alicia tell her story, to heal and get well. I wanted to fix her.

Without wishing to sound boastful, I felt uniquely qualified to help Alicia Berenson. I'm a forensic psychotherapist and used to working with some of the most damaged, vulnerable members of society. And something about Alicia's story resonated with me personally — I felt a profound empathy with her right from the start.

Unfortunately, I was still working at Broadmoor in those days, and so treating Alicia would have — should have — remained an idle fantasy, had not fate unexpectedly intervened.

Nearly six years after Alicia was admitted, the position of forensic psychotherapist became available at the Grove. As soon as I saw the advert, I knew I had no choice. I followed my gut — and applied for the job.

CHAPTER 3

MY NAME IS THEO FABER. I'm forty-two years old. And I became a psychotherapist because I was fucked-up. That's the truth — though it's not what I said during the job interview, when the question was put to me.

"What drew you to psychotherapy, do you think?" asked Indira Sharma, peering at me over the rims of her owlish glasses.

Indira was consultant psychotherapist at the Grove. She was in her late fifties with an attractive round face and long jet-black hair streaked with gray. She gave me a small smile — as if to reassure me this was an easy question, a warm-up volley, a precursor to trickier shots to follow.

I hesitated. I could feel the other members of the panel looking at me. I remained conscious of maintaining eye contact as I trotted out a rehearsed response, a sympathetic tale about working part-time in a care home as a teenager; and how this inspired an interest in psychology, which led to a postgraduate study of psychotherapy, and so on.

"I wanted to help people, I suppose." I shrugged. "That's it, really."

Which was bullshit.

I mean, of course I wanted to help people. But that was a secondary aim — particularly at the time I started training. The real motivation was purely selfish. I was on a quest to help myself. I believe the same is true for most people who go into mental health. We are drawn to this profession because we are damaged — we study psychology to heal ourselves. Whether we are prepared to admit this or not is another question.

As human beings, in our earliest years we reside in a land before memory. We like to think of ourselves as emerging from this primordial fog with our characters fully formed, like Aphrodite rising perfect from the sea foam. But thanks to increasing research into the development of the brain, we know this is not the case. We are born with a brain half-formed — more like a muddy lump of clay than a divine Olympian. As the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott put it, "There is no such thing as a baby." The development of our personalities doesn't take place in isolation, but in relationship with others — we are shaped and completed by unseen, unremembered forces; namely, our parents.

This is frightening, for obvious reasons. Who knows what indignities we suffered, what torments and abuses, in this land before memory? Our character was formed without our even knowing it. In my case, I grew up feeling edgy, afraid; anxious. This anxiety seemed to predate my existence and exist independently of me. But I suspect it originated in my relationship with my father, around whom I was never safe.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Silent Patient"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Astramare Limited.
Excerpted by permission of Celadon Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Silent Patient 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I couldn’t put it down. The twist totally surprised me. Excellent!!
Anonymous 11 days ago
I rarely buy books by foreign authors or a first book especially without reviews but i took a chance and i am so glad I couldnot put it down i will watch for the next one just bought it a couple days ago and already other positive reviews
Anonymous 9 days ago
Great story, very well done. Kept me on my toes.
Anonymous 10 days ago
I will definitely be following this author! Its 6am and I have just finished this book...could not put it down. And the twist at the end...unbelievable! You won't be disappointed!
Anonymous 12 days ago
Great book!!! Kept me guessing and staying up late to finish ?
Anonymous 6 days ago
Very intriguing!!! A page turner for sure!
Anonymous 7 days ago
I really don't believe I read the whole thing. I'm surprised so many adept writers praised it so highly. Was there any cliche left unused? I felt as though I should have a red pencil in my hand. I won't be anxious for his next book to drop.
Anonymous 7 days ago
I+enjoyed++reading+it+-+great+ending%21%0A
Anonymous 7 days ago
I+could+not+put+this+book+down.+i+mean+it.++What+a+great+story+.+i+never+knew+what+was+coming+next.++This+is+a+must+read.++I+eagerly+await+the+author%27s+next+book.+
Anonymous 8 days ago
Crazy twists n turns! Great thriller!
Anonymous 9 days ago
Disappointed to say the least
GnomeGrrl 2 hours ago
Well, that was quite a debut for both Alex Michaelides and the latest division of Macmillan Publishing, Celadon Books! This is, out of necessity, going to be a pretty short review. The Silent Patient is one of those twisty types of page-turners, that getting too deep into it would definitely result in spoilers. You’ll get the bare minimum here. Sorry, not sorry! Told in two voices - through therapist Theo Faber and the diary of the troubled murderer, Alicia Berenson, silent since the day she murdered her husband, The Silent Patient skilfully throws twist after misdirect, misdirect after revelation, yet you’re never really truly certain which of our cast of unreliable creatures is truly integral to unraveling the mystery. Even if you do figure it out, the execution is still breath-taking enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. With pacing that is on point, and more than a few things going on (who can resist the art of psychotherapy with some good old Greek tragedy and even more old-fashioned domestic noir, all set in an insane asylum?), you will have trouble putting this one down. Mr. Michaelides is a refreshing new voice in the psychological thriller game and I am very much looking forward to seeing more from him. I also can’t wait to see what more little gems Celadon have up their sleeves!
Andrew_of_Dunedin 20 hours ago
Artist Alicia Berenson lives, despite a suicide attempt. Her husband Gabriel does not – he's been shot to death. The police quickly realize Alicia MUST have done it. Perhaps the clue as to WHY exists in the artist's self portrait, called “Alcestis”. However, like the Greek tragedy by Euripides whose title was taken for the painting, the subject – Alicia – has stopped speaking. Psychotherapist Theo Faber has taken a job at a failing mental institution where Alicia has been committed. It is his most fervent wish to gain an insight into her secrets, and as such to assist her in recovery. His first challenge will be to get her to speak … no, his first challenge will be to get her to TRUST … while he deals with the temptations of cannibis and the fear that his wife has taken a lover. “The Silent Patient”, by Alex Michaelides, is a psychological thriller of the first degree. I found it started slow – but then, most roller coasters start slow while they build up a supply of potential energy. Both the book and the roller coaster start to speed up – slowly at first, but then faster and faster. When you think you know what's going to happen next, you find that you've been whipped around in an unexpected curve. Eventually, the ride is over … long before you're ready for it to finish – and the same is true for the book. Unlike a roller coaster, however, the most sudden and amazing twists and turns occur as the book is reaching its conclusion! I dare not say more, lest I inadvertently provide a spoiler. RATING: Four and 1/2 Stars, rounded up to Five Stars where 1/2 stars are not permitted.
sadiesb 2 days ago
WOW -- could not put this book down. For me very unique thriller and definitely not the typical. I don't want to give anything away but I just had to keep reading because I didn't know what was at the next page turn.
MackenzieH 2 days ago
Darkly compelling and with a twist that will shock you! This is a top contender for best psychological thriller in my book—I absolutely am blown away that The Silent Patient is a debut novel for Alex Michaelides. When an act of unspeakable violence leads the main culprit to fall completely silent, everyone assumes that it’s an act. But years later, she still hasn’t spoken a word. With skilled writing and narrative structure and a standout twist, this is sure to be a must-read for 2019. Outstanding!!! A book I want to read again, even knowing the twists! A silent siren, that is how chief psychologist Diomedesrefers to Alicia Berenson. A woman who was once so vibrant, she could bring energy to any situation now sits completely mute and subdued. But in a way, this contrast makes her even more attractive. Theo thinks he can help Alicia, just as many psychologists before him have tried. But Theo is sure he can be the one. Theo himself comes from damage. He knows what it is like, and he knows how the right person can bring someone back to life. Alicia was certainly the silent siren to me as the reader as well! I loved the way Michaelides described the feelings Alicia was able to convey through her eyes, even while silent and motionless. There’s still a person in there with fire inside, but outwardly she has turned to stone. Steeped in a fascinating Greek tragedy that I hadn’t previously heard of, this story is dark and addictive. I could scarcely put the book down! I loved the particular tragedy that was used as the catalyst and sort of allegory for the broader story. I won’t even tell you which Greek tragedy though, because I don’t want it to spoil anything! You’ll have to read to find out. But suffice it to say, it gave me a lot to think about as I read. It’s perfect, the way it melds with the story! Theo is like this child that was left forgotten at after school pickup. He’s so sweet and caring, but also sort of brushed aside. He is incredibly damaged and not without flaws. But he is also so grateful for the kindness of others. You sort of just want to give him a hug! But don’t let any of that fool you into thinking he doesn’t know how to help Alicia. He might be just the person that can get through to her! I was really captivated by the setting around therapy. Throw in a good discussion of countertransference any day and I’m a happy PhDiva (in psychology, no less!). The setting and the primary characters being artists and psychologists really added a rich context to the story. The introspection was spot on. Both professions are ones where the search for meaning in the ambiguous are prominent. I’d imagine most readers will be complete fascinated by the discussions of what is meant and what is being conveyed by the characters and the artwork.
Anonymous 2 days ago
Well done,
Anonymous 2 days ago
Kept+me+wondering
Anonymous 2 days ago
Kept+me+glued%2C+never+would%27ve+guessed+the+outcome.++I+recommend++it+for+any+psychological++thriller+reader.%0A
Anonymous 5 days ago
A+well+developed+story.++Makes+you+want+to+read+more.
theavidbookerfly 6 days ago
Storyline/Overview - Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist and he is interested in Alice’s story who has murdered her husband. He is determined to get to the details behind the crime. Even though the patient (Alice) is Silent throughout the narrative, the story progresses to spotlight her complex characteristics. “Unexpressed emotions never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways” BEST Psychological Thriller I have read in a long time! My opinion - Very well researched topic and the quotes at the start of every part of the book make sense at the end Every scenario described feels so realistic and I was amazed how much engrossed I was in this book Nice pace and a very easy to understand and read kind of language used The plot has a nice edginess and it wants you to keep turning pages to figure out what happens next! I was amazed at the flawless development of the characters, outstanding buildup and curiosity maintained and in fact increasing as pages turned! The final twist is the unique climax and no matter how much aware you are of the story, you’ll still not be able to predict it and I was mind blown by that sole fact The chapters are well divided and the engrossing fast-paced read makes it a page turner for sure! I enjoyed this wonderful psychological drama ride and cannot believe it is debut novel by Alex. Kudos!! Conclusion - It is definitely a clever and intriguing story with a mind-blowing twist to enjoy! The Silent Patient SPEAKS a lot It is for sure one of my favorite reads of 2019!
MicheleJ 7 days ago
The Silent Patient is a brand new debut thriller that will be hitting shelves February 5th! It is currently being talked about among the bookstagram community hugely and is likely to be a top thriller in 2019! I had a hard time getting into this book to begin with, but I’ve seriously considered that it may have been my mood more than the book. I read about fifty pages in and then decided to take a break for a few weeks. When I picked it back up, I seriously burned through it so quickly. The story is fast-paced, the chapters are short, and the ending took me by surprise! All of these things put together make for a great thriller in my mind. I thought I had a couple ideas of how this book was going to pan out, but it turns out I was completely wrong! The ending had a huge twist that I couldn’t have seen coming from a mile away. I’ll keep this review short and sweet with leaving it by saying that I think you should definitely check this one out! Preorder it, get on the wait list at the library, whatever it is you do for new releases! But I don’t think you’ll want to miss out on this once because everyone will be talking about it! Thank you to Calderon Books and Alex Michaelides for my Advance Reader Copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Anonymous 7 days ago
This book was fantastic. It is rare that I can get taken by surprise like I did with this novel. I read this book in one sitting. I could not put it down.
GoABraves 8 days ago
Gabriel was murdered by his loving wife Alicia Berenson six years ago. Why did she murder him? Every since that night, she has not spoken a word. Enter Theo Faber, a therapist who believes he can help her unlock what happened that night. Alice was a well known artist who painted a provocative painting entitled Alchestis - is this a clue? Can Dr. Faber help or only hurt her? A debut novel from Alex Michaelides who weaves a tale and the ending you don't see coming. Thank you to Celadon Books and Macmillian the ARC.
vickimarie2002 9 days ago
This was so good!!! I never saw the twist coming until it was right there in my face! I'm so incredibly impressed! So many times whiten I read thrillers, I can predict the ending or get party close. Not this one! I was completely enraptured with the idea of Alicia not speaking again after the death of her husband and I loved the psychological aspects of why that might be. She's a pretty intriguing character along with all the other characters you meet along the way. If you want a good psychological thriller this is it! I noticed that the film rights were optioned and I can't wait to see how they put it into a movie. It's very suspenseful and easy to read. It's very hard to put it down! It is told from Theo's perspective in his own home life and as Alicia's psychotherapist and also through Alicia's diary entries.
Anonymous 11 days ago
well+written+full+of+twists+and+an+ending+that+no+one+could+predict%21+