She is his doctor. He will be her downfall.
When Rachel meets Luc, the attraction is instant.
But she is a doctor, and he is her patient.
She gives him the drugs he needs – but in doing so, risks everything.
And when a secret is exposed, they’re both in the firing line.
Not all patients are telling the truth.
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Jane Shemilt’s latest novel. I loved her previous novel, Little Friends, and I jumped at the opportunity to read and review The Patient – that blurb, while brief, is a wonderful hook.
The novel opens in June 2017 where we see GP Rachel Goodchild in prison, accused of a crime that isn’t immediately revealed to the reader. Rachel then takes us back to February of that year and the night that she first meets Luc Lefevre who is seeking medical help. To Rachel, he is a patient, and yet she cannot deny that feels an instant attraction to him. Unbeknownst to Rachel, this chance meeting sets in motion events that will see Rachel’s life turned upside-down in five short months. It’s a great way to pull the reader in and I immediately wanted to know how Rachel’s life changed so drastically in such a short period of time.
Rachel’s life is largely prosaic. She lives a quiet life with her husband Nathan. Their grown-up daughter, Lizzie, is distant and seems to resent any attempt of Rachel’s to reach out to her, something which comes across as Lizzie wanting her independence now that she’s left the family home as well as some residual resentment that Rachel’s job took up so much time during her childhood. It’s a largely normal set up, and if Rachel feels a little dissatisfied with her life at times, it is no more than a little, and she doesn’t set out with any intention to shake things up. As with many psychological thrillers, I didn’t find Rachel to be wholly likeable as a protagonist, yet it’s hard to imagine her doing anything that might result in her arrest even though she is partly to blame for what happens.
I like the way in which Rachel’s character offers the reader insight into the workings of a GP surgery. Rachel’s frustration is palpable as we see how her time with each patient is restricted (Luc being a rare exception) and the way in which she feels that she can’t always get to the bottom of what’s troubling those who make an appointment to see her. This is particularly true for those who seek out her help and advice for mental health issues, and the reader knows that the attention she gives to Luc is partly driven by a feeling of having failed another patient who she feels may have opened up to her given more time. It highlights the strain on the British health service and the frustrations that some patients may feel at times, and it’s interesting to see this from the perspective of a doctor.
I think that psychological thrillers are best approached with as little knowledge of what’s coming as possible and so I’m not going to delve into the plot in any great detail – the above blurb tells you plenty. I will say that I love the way in which the novel plays out. Things happen in a relatively short period of time, but this isn’t a fast-paced novel. Rather, Shemilt takes a slower pace but that sense of inevitability from knowing of Rachel’s arrest pulls the reader in. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to get to that stage and I thoroughly enjoyed the twists that are thrown in to keep the reader guessing. I thought I’d been terribly clever is working out what was going on before the big reveal, and while I was correct in some respects, I didn’t quite figure out everything. The novel plays out beautifully, reeling the reader in early on and not letting go until the end. Shemilt also imbues her novel with a wonderful sense of foreboding. From the very first page as Rachel is followed home one evening, there is a sense of menace that builds up beautifully over the course of the novel.
The Patient is a wonderful psychological thriller that sees Rachel’s life turned upside-down. She is not wholly blameless for these events, and yet I was doubtful throughout that she had done anything that might warrant her arrest. There are some surprising twists as both Rachel and the reader start to understand more of what’s going on, and I found this to be a fantastic and engaging thriller. Recommended.
The Patient is published by Harper Collins and is available now in paperback, digital, and audio formats. Huge thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.
About the Author
Jane Shemilt is an internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of psychological suspense novels.
As a medical student studying psychiatry, Jane would hang around in the ward for hours listening to patients and their stories. Later, as a GP, she was struck by the number of her patients who faced mental illness and felt stigmatised by their experience. These conversations form the backdrop for The Patient.
The character of Rachel was born from Jane’s frustration with the limits placed on older women. She envisioned a character who decides to sidestep her responsibilities and prioritise her own desires. Given the opportunity, how many of us would dare to seize it?
Jane’s first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 2014.
Make sure you check out the other wonderful bloggers and bookstagrammers taking part in the tour!