Published by Caledon Books (5th February 2019)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actual rating of 4.5
Alicia Berenson’s life is story book perfect. She has an illustrious art career, and is married to a handsome, highly sought after fashion photographer; they live together in a wonderful, big house that overlooks a beautiful park in one of London’s most desired locations. Everything is perfect. Until one night, Alicia’s husband Gabriel arrives home late from a shoot, she then proceeds to shoot him five times in the face, and now, she refuses to speak. She has spent the years since her husbands murder under psychiatric care at The Grove, nothing can get her to talk. Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who has been waiting for the chance to work with Alicia. Her strange case had him enthralled before he even met her. He is determined to get her to speak, and tell her side of the story about that fateful night. However, his journey to get Alicia to open up has him riding down a path of self discovery and reveals his own motivations – will this search for the truth behind what happened completely consume him?
I had this book sitting on my bookshelf for around a year, I picked it up on a recommendation from a friend after I had read yet another disappointing story that I thought was a psychological thriller, yet it turned out to be anything but. My friend promised twists and turns and revelations that will make you gasp, and did this book ever deliver!!!
In the beginning this reads like any other crime novel, though from the psych side of things. Alicia has been locked up for seven odd years in a psychiatric hospital after murdering her husband with seemingly no motivation whatsoever. And since the moment the police found her standing next to her husbands dead body, she has refused to speak, not a single word. So to say the mystery is intriguing is just not all encompassing enough for how much I needed to know why the hell Alicia shot her seemingly perfect and loving husband. Then enters Theo, a psychotherapist who is not afraid to tell the reader that he got into this career because he had a fucked up childhood which ended up with him having mental health issues of his own. Though he won’t tell professional colleagues this. So colour me interested. We have a mystery that I honestly just cannot work out and a protagonist who has so many layers you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
The story starts of a teeny bit slow, but it all soon builds up into an unputdownable story that just keeps running deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Alicia. Though it’s not only about Alicia, as mentioned above, Theo is a very multidimensional character with a lot of problems of his own. We learn about his childhood, his abusive father, his terrified mother. We learn about the relationship he developed with his own Therapist, who I kind of want as my own. And we learn about his obsession with Alicia’s case. It’s not obsession in the doctor falls in love with the strange woman who lures him in with her eyes and her pain, it’s obsession of getting to the bottom of why she did what she did, and what really happened that night. I was so glad that Michaelides didn’t take the cliched road of doctor falling in love with his damaged, yet beautiful patient, otherwise this review would have been very different. The need that Theo exudes in needing to make progress with Alicia before The Grove closes down and he loses his chance forever, while sometimes too obsessive, actually came across as a doctor willing to do whatever it takes to cure his patient, and I found it somewhat endearing at times.
The story is told mostly through Theo’s point of view, but we do have sections that are told through Alicia’s point of view, written in a journal, so it’s the time leading up to the murder, and we also get a bit of time after the murder when she has become mute. I found this super interesting and it added another layer to the story, and it twisted the mystery up even more, so as I honestly had no idea what was going to come out at the end. I found myself becoming just as obsessive about Theo’s need to get to the truth.
The why behind it all, honestly blew me away. I did not work out what was happening until it happened, literally a sentence before the bomb was dropped. I did not pick it. I had some ideas up until that point but I didn’t pick the revelation until it happened. And let me tell you, I am LIVING for it! I can’t even describe the feeling of ‘holy shit’ that it gave me because I wasn’t expecting the story to turn out the way it did. And I’m not even going to try to talk covertly about it because I don’t want to give anything away. Let me just say, this is the story I was looking for. The twists and turns, the lead up, the understanding once the reveal happened. All of it so perfectly executed and well written that I can’t even begin to understand how Michaelides came up with this idea and executed it to perfection. Also, the inclusion of the Greek tragedy was masterful and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about it as I had not heard of this story before.
All in all, this was a suspenseful thriller that had so many twists and turns, I didn’t even know where I was on the map anymore. If you’re looking for a story that has characters of depth, even Alicia has so much depth through her refusal to speak, and a masterful mystery that will keep you guessing, give this one a go. It will not disappoint.
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