Summary of Book
From the very beginning, Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient makes it clear what kind of novel it is intended to be. “When Alicia Berenson killed her husband, she was 33 years old.” We’re not playing around. This recent publication is one to look at for readers who want their thrillers and mysteries to have twisty plots and straightforward language. Since its publication in February 2019, it has raised rapidly the bestselling charts.
The idea behind this book is brilliant. The unexpected nature of the book’s conclusion is matched by the excellence of its pivotal scene. I wasn’t sure if the novel would come together, so I was pleasantly delighted when it did. The conclusion is always the make-or-break part of the plot in thrillers, but this one is very good. The first book by Michaelides is a quick, enjoyable read that will certainly make a gripping movie.
The narrative is well-paced and holds your interest throughout. It reads very much exactly like a thriller should, with lots of surprises and fascinating details released steadily. Therefore, even though this book has many issues, they are also very common for the genre. Character descriptions tend to be absurd or cartoonish (e.g., the motherly female doctor, the haughty doctor who gets in the way, etc.). The amount of red herrings and false beginnings that Michaelides includes causes the novel to unintentionally become campy.
The writing, while adequate, could use some improvement. It mostly just serves to transition (often awkwardly) from one plot element to the next. Even though I like the climax, many of the minor story “twists” are somewhat unoriginal. The book’s mushy middle section reads more like a disorganized muddle than an intriguing mystery. The majority of those red herrings remain unanswered.
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Last but not least, despite the book’s constant forward motion, it takes some time to come to its core. Before the action begins, several characters must be introduced and a sizable amount of background material must be covered. As a result, it frequently uses one of my least favorite literary/mystery “tricks” to keep the reader interested while it provides background information: it employs narration that sounds ominous to reassure you that things will get interesting later (I didn’t know then that it was doomed, I would later realize my mistake, etcetera, and etcetera). Not much of a deal, but I wish people wouldn’t act in this manner.
I’m tempted to overlook many of The Silent Patient’s flaws because it has a gripping conclusion for a thriller. The major mystery in this novel puzzled me, and when it was solved, I had that satisfying “oh man, I should have suspected that!” sensation. This helps me a lot to me. I enjoy reading thrillers, thus I can be fairly forgiving of imperfect thrillers. I thought this book was slightly entertaining, and I think many people would too, especially if they prefer storylines that are cleverly constructed.
However, my main impression is that it will work far better as a motion picture. A genuinely good narrative already has the framework; it simply needs some tweaking and subtlety. However, altogether, this is a quick and enjoyable read if you enjoy thrillers and are not choosy about your novels.