Publish Date: February 5, 2019
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways.” – Signmund Freud
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations— and a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.
Holy moly, THIS BOOK IS GOOD. I have finally read a book that lives up to its hype!
Alicia Berenson has been rotting away for six years in The Grove, a secure psychiatric unit outside of London. She has been tried, convicted, and sentenced without uttering a single word of her guilt or innocence, thanks to society’s need for a “fair” and speedy closure to a horrific murder. But did she really kill her beloved husband Gabriel?
Enter Theo Farber, a psychotherapist. You might be wondering, as I did, what is a psychotherapist anyway? According to Wikipedia, Psychotherapists use psychological methods, based on regular personal interaction to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways, instead of drugging, shocking, or using physical force to treat a patient. Theo gets a job at The Grove and is determined to find out what happened to Alicia. He is obsessed with finding the truth, and because she won’t talk to him, he immerses himself in talking to others in Alicia’s past. He goes beyond the boundaries of patient protocols. I questioned his motivations.
The book is a great insight into the world of psychotherapy, and how adult human behavior is largely shaped by childhood experiences. “Sometimes it’s hard to grasp why the answers to the present lie in the past… No one is born evil. A baby cannot hate the mother, without the mother first hating the baby.”
The story is narrated by Theo but sprinkled with Alicia’s journal entries, so we also have insight into her point of view. It’s a fascinating look into the world of psychiatric facilities, patients, and their care team. I was fascinated by the politics of the place. The book reminds me of the plot in Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia (my review here).
This book is excellent. It’s twisty, and it kept this jaded thriller reader on her toes. It’s rare that a book does that to me, and I loved it. The past and present eventually blend into one and all of my questions were resolved by the end. It’s character-driven with likeable, fallible characters and an appealing protagonist. Oh, and THAT ENDING! It is shocking, unexpected, and left me with a book hangover. It’s grip lit at its finest.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.