When you pick up a thriller, what is it that you’re looking for? Do you want to just get lost in a story that doesn’t expect a lot from you as a reader? An easy sort of book where you can just keep flipping through pages without really engaging your brain? There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time and a place for those types of books. On the beach, when you’re sick—sometimes it’s just nice to turn your brain off and devour something silly. This could be that book for you.
But does that have to be the entire thriller genre? I want to like thrillers. The keywords get to me: “dark, compulsive, gripping, psychological, smart, shocking. . .” I’m always intrigued. But I find over and over that these books tend to just not deliver for me.
I found The Silent Patient to have a fairly obvious plot that was not helped along by heavy-handed symbolism and an unrefined, underdeveloped writing style.
Despite the intriguing set-up, with famous artist Alicia, who is in a psychiatric hospital for the murder of her husband and hasn’t spoken since his death, the book focuses much more closely on narrator and psychologist Theo and his own psychological and marital issues and background than on Alicia. This wouldn’t have bothered me, except for (1) his problems are really not that interesting and the narrative style is bland and often feels lifted from a psych 101 class, and (2) it made me really suspicious of where the narrative was going.
It is difficult not to be interested in the inner workings of the mind. I think we all want to know what makes people tick and especially what makes them snap. But this book isn’t really interested in getting into the mind of Alicia, or even the mind of Theo. It is just a drawn-out drama of relationships-gone-wrong with a convoluted twist at the end that reengineers part of how you’ve been reading the book (which I think is definitely unfair and at least a little confusing for the timeline).
Nothing in the narrative hinges on who the characters are as people: the way they think, act, or feel. It is only interested in getting to that twist, the narrative punch that the author has obviously been holding in his back pocket the whole time. This makes the book completely unrelatable and I just couldn’t care about the characters. They are all just pawns for the plot.
This one wasn’t for me. I’m always looking for that elusive thriller that actually thrills.
My thanks to Celadon Press for sending me this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.