Orion has splashed six figures on British screenwriter Alex Michaelides' first thriller, in one of the biggest debut deals agency Rogers, Coleridge & White has cut in the last five years.
Set in London, The Silent Patient opens with Alicia Berenson, a successful painter, who shoots the husband she loves in the head five times, and then never speaks again. Theo Faber, a determined psychotherapist, is convinced he can get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she did it.
UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to the debut were secured by Ben Willis, senior commissioning editor at Orion Fiction, from Sam Copeland at RCW in a "hotly contested" auction.
Copeland called it "one of the biggest debut deals we've seen in the last five years", with the novel also attracting significant international interest. It was the subject of a "major" pre-empt in the US by Ryan Doherty at Celadon Books (the newest division of Macmillan Publishers), within just 12 hours of submission, as well a mixture of pre-empts and auctions in Brazil, France, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Spain.
Film rights to the work have also sold to an Oscar-winning producer, yet to be revealed. The thiller is slated for a hardback release in spring 2019.
Michaelides, who has been a screenwriter on “The Devil You Know”, as well as other films, said his idea for the novel grew from experience working at a psychiatric unit, as well as an interest in the Greek legend of Alcestis and a love of Agatha Christie thrillers.
"During my English degree, I became obsessed with the Ancient Greek myth of Alcestis and the haunting, cryptic tragedy by Euripides, where a woman is brought back to life and refuses to speak," said Michaelides. "This image of a silent woman haunted me for years, until I did a post-graduate course in psychotherapy in London. Working part-time at a secure psychiatric unit for two years, I saw how the world of psychotherapy might be the perfect modern setting to re-imagine this story and explore its themes of death, guilt and silence. Coupled with my love of thrillers, especially Agatha Christie, everything came together in the form of The Silent Patient."
Willis, senior commissioning editor at Orion Fiction, called it "the most satisfying thriller we’ve read in a very long time". He added: "There is a rare frenzy of excitement and hubbub about this book at Orion, and from the moment it came in we knew we were onto something special.
"Utterly gripping, intriguing, and with the single-most devastating conclusion, The Silent Patient is destined to be 2019’s word-of-mouth hit."