[Read as an audiobook from the public library]
I don’t know what I was expecting in this book, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. This book left me cold, more than anything. I don’t think it was supposed to – I was probably supposed to be shocked. But I was just left with a feeling of, “Huh. Okay. Well then.” Very unlike my recent reaction to, of all things, And Then There Were None, an 80 year old book that I’d never read that still gave me a turn at the end (the Dan Stevens audiobook is quite good, if you want a recommendation).
Basically the plot is this: Six years ago, painter Alicia Berenson murdered her husband. Since that moment, she has refused to speak to anyone. She has painted one self portrait, titled Alcestis, and that’s it. She was convicted and is in an institution for the criminally insane.
Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who is a little bit obsessed with helping Alicia and getting her to talk again. He thinks if she can talk about what happened and why, she will be able to come through her issues and out the other side. Theo has had a history of his own with therapy and is a great believer in the talking cure.
The story is told from two points of view – Theo’s inner monologue and Alicia’s journal from before the murder. The audiobook casts separate readers for these parts, which definitely helps keep things straight while listening. There are quite a few characters that intersect as Theo starts unraveling Alicia’s life before the murder and what happened leading up to it. He (and the reader) start to wonder if everyone is who they claim to be.
If you think about this once it’s over for about ten seconds, all the plot holes will start to become very obvious. Some of them become obvious while you’re still reading. It’s definitely not the worst thing I’ve read of its type but it seems like Michaelides got a little ahead of himself on the way to his ending and missed some spots. Mystery readers who are used to looking for clues will notice some pretty glaring faults, and even more casual readers may find themselves saying, “Wait a minute, I thought you said…”
Personal opinion, the whole narrative also felt pretty misogynistic in a way I can’t entirely put my finger on. One of the two central characters is a woman, but she’s silent and damaged, and her life revolved around her husband and now she is interpreted by a male therapist. There are a few other women, but they’re basically either mothers, sexpots, monsters, or nonentities.
No spoilers, but this is a thriller so you likely know what you’re getting into. Content warnings for suicidal ideation, stalking, violence, and just a metric ton of psychobabble.