Usually, when my friends are listening to murder podcasts or watching creepy documentaries, I make it a point to be in another room. However, this summer I found myself seeking that sense of shock that leaves you reeling long after a story ends. I got a taste of that in shows like Cruel Summer and Mare of Easttown, but there was still a jaw-dropping energy missing from aspects of these shows. Finally, my need for a plot twist that I never saw coming was fulfilled during the final chapters of Alex Michaelides’s novel The Silent Patient. A book that I was expecting to merely fulfill my trivial desire for the unexpected blew away my expectations and became one of my favorite books of the summer.
In The Silent Patient, psychotherapist Theo Faber has a very unique and notorious patient, Alicia Berenson. His interest in her case lies not only in that she murdered her husband but also in her refusal to talk in the days and years following it. With a patient who does not speak and a murder that seems less clear the more he looks into it, Faber gets continuously invested in uncovering the truth surrounding Alicia. This book was so intriguing and mysterious from the first page, and getting sucked into the plot paid off when Michaelides shattered my mind with his brilliant plot twists. Maybe I’m rusty at figuring out the mystery before you’re supposed to, but this was one of the most unpredictable novels I’ve read in ages.
After finding out Michaelides just released a new novel, I grabbed a copy from the library in no way expecting it to live up to the shock-value of its predecessor. Of course, I was blown away once again by how well-written, intriguing, and mind-boggling The Maidens is. Predominantly set at Cambridge University, The Maidens follows group therapist Mariana Andros as she works to uncover the murder of a young student, with whom her niece was close friends. This book never let me rest, always giving the impression of something ominous lurking around the next page. The plot twists were as shocking as The Silent Patient, and I could not stop thinking about it for weeks after.
For me, the success of The Silent Patient and The Maidens far surpasses their surprising plot twists. Alex Michaelides displayed a thorough and impressive knowledge of psychology and made the plot not only about discovering the truth of a crime, but also the complex psychologies of those who commit them. This aspect of the books was deeply fascinating to me and brought them another level past a typical crime thriller. Since the narrators of both books are psychologists, the insight they provide into events and characters adds fresh perspectives to the unfolding of the novel. Additionally, Alex Michaelides incorporates his Greek culture into the novel with abundant and intricate allusions to Greek gods and mythology. This adds to these novels’ uniqueness and compliments the dark academic, gothic vibe they give off. Safe to say, I was sufficiently unnerved and ready to return to more comforting genres after the completion of these two books.
Cover Photo: Deadline