See no evil, hear no evil, but most definitely speak no evil. This psychological thriller explores the aftermath of a murder when the killer decides to never speak again and is institutionalised in a medial facility.
I saw quite a bit of buzz surrounding this novel and finally decided to take the plunge this October to read it. I did the typical bookworm thing where I envisioned spooky chapters but I’d still be safe with my lamp on and firmly snuggled within the cosy depths of my blanket. The premise really intrigued me because I adore a good mystery which is all the more tantalising when the character involved won’t tell what happened; the tension alone wants to drive you to the end. Alicia Berenson, despite having an idealistic life, comes home one evening to shoot her husband in the face five times and hasn’t uttered a word since. The novel follows two perspectives; mainly the voice of her psychotherapist Theo as he tries to uncover her mystery, and Alicia’s diary entries leading up to the bloody event.
At first I wasn’t particularly keen on the narrative presented by Theo. In all honesty, I found him to be a little stiff and overly explanative in the beginning. A lot of the first chapters were heavy description which involved too much focus on the study of psychology to the point where it felt a little redundant. He was explaining things that I could have easily realised myself and because of the emphasis of description over plot or dialogue, it felt very much like the author was making sure the reader understood rather than it being a part of the story naturally. With that being said, it did start to ease off during the middle of the book when I was hooked by the story, not necessarily the characters.
I did really like the chapters that were of Alicia’s diary entries because it really enhanced the tension whilst adding just enough small clues to make me question everyone. I particularly liked the dynamic presented between Max (Alicia’s brother in law) and Alicia and thought that was an interesting exploration into sibling rivalry; but I would have loved to have further input from Max’s wife Tanya as I felt she could have introduced another layer with more complicated emotions and therefore intrigue. Similarly, I really enjoyed the small insight into Alicia’s cousin Paul and how he felt trapped to look after his mother. Although again, I feel as though this could have been explored further without the predicable gambling subplot. In all honesty, I had a few issues with the secondary characters not being explored thoroughly because they felt secondary. Plus, not to mention the blatant stereotypes, such as; the gossiping and materialist neighbour named Barbie, the Greek psychologist, and of course the French gallery owner, that all added to the sense that they were an afterthought.
The true star of this book however, is the ending. I can see why it had so many people talking, because the twist actually lives up to the shock that the premise promises. I will say that I didn’t expect it to go the way that it did and I was thoroughly thrown off my game as I had pointed my finger of blame in the completely wrong direction. The anticipation of waiting for Alicia to speak, in combination with the theories that the reader collects on the way make this a very intriguing read that can only be described as a page turner! I would like to explore this ending further so the next paragraph will include spoilers so here is your warning folks! If you do not want the twist to be revealed please stop here; but if you’re as nosy as I am, or you have read the book yourself then please continue.
Firstly and obviously, I was shocked to find that Theo himself was the driving character in implementing the murder, however unintended. When I had that revelation moment my jaw truly did hang open. I loved the way that Michaelides interweaves the past and the present based on the readers assumptions to only completely subvert them later. What a master of misdirection because I truly did not connect Alicia’s stalker to Theo. I remember reading those last few passages thinking that Theo was heading down a dark path and questioning how this was going to end for him only to find out it had already happened. The other thing that completely shocked me about this twist was Gabriel himself. During Alicia’s entries I was so sure that he adored her that I didn’t even question his infidelity; which was exactly what Michaelides wanted. I won’t lie to you either, it hurt me. The bit that sticks in my mind is when Gabriel asks Alicia if they could have children together because I truly believed he cared; so this really contributed to me being blind-sighted during the actual reveal. Alicia is the character that I empathised and connected with the most. I really felt for her and despite being confused with the Greek tragedy analogies at the beginning I learnt to appreciate its brilliance at the end. The final piece that connected it all when Theo made Gabriel choose between Alicia and himself and how it reverts back to her childhood was a remarkable plot point that was the perfect jigsaw piece to finish the puzzle.
Overall, The plot of this book was good enough for me to get past my dislike of the narrative Theo was written in. The twist was excellently thought out and made me pause to reevaluate everything I had previously believed and read. The psychology moments, despite sometimes feeling excessive, was an interesting exploration into the motivations of the characters and contributed to all my theories throughout the reading experience. It was a quick read as the novel is fairly short, and so it makes for very easy reading especially with the desire to know what truly happened. The twist is definitely one of those that sticks with you long after finishing the story and I would highly recommend for others to give this one a try. It wasn’t a scary read by any means (like I thought it may be prior to reading) but it is indeed a psychological thriller.