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Set in 1896, Carr's novel about a serial killer lose in New York City was a 25-week PW bestseller. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A society-born police reporter and an enigmatic abnormal psychologist--the "alienist" of the title--are recruited in 1896 by New York's reform police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt to track down a serial killer who is slaughtering boy prostitutes. The investigators are opposed at every step by crime bosses and the city's hidden rulers (including J. Pierpont Morgan); they distrust the alienist's novel methods and would rather conceal evidence of the murders than court publicity. Tension builds as the detectives race to prevent more deaths. From this improbable brew, historian-novelist Carr ( The Devil Soldier , Random, 1991) has fashioned a knockout period mystery, infused with intelligence, vitality, and humor. This novel is a highly unorthodox variant of the Holmes-Watson theme and the best since Julian Symons's delightful A Three-Pipe Solution . It should entice new fans to the genre. Recommended. Literary Guild featured selection; Doubleday Book Club Selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/93. - David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
New York City, 1896. A serial killer is on the loose, gruesomely preying upon cross-dressing boy prostitutes. Police detectives are making no progress solving the ghastly crimes. In fact, someone with power or influence seems to be bent on silencing witnesses and thwarting any investigation. Reform-minded police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the same TR who later became president), determined to catch the killer, assembles an unconventional group of investigators headed by "alienist" Dr. Lazlo Kreizler. (In the 19th century, when psychology was in its infancy, the mentally ill were considered "alienated" from themselves and society, and the experts who treated them were known as "alienists.") Dr. Kreizler's team includes his former Harvard classmate, New York Times crime reporter John Moore; Moore's longtime friend, spitfire heiress-turned-NYPD-secretary Sara Hamilton; and two former mental patients who now work as his servants. To help identify the killer--who leaves behind very few clues, manages to spirit his victims out of locked rooms, and passes through the city unnoticed--the team attempts to develop a psychological profile of the type of person who would be capable of such horrendous deeds. The novelty of their approach does not win them any fans from the mental-health establishment or most NYPD detectives, and throughout the novel, they attempt to keep their involvement secret. Author Caleb Carr puts his historical background to fascinating use. "The Alienist" is filled with rich details about both the seamier underside and more privileged parts of late-19th-century New York City and the then-novel crime detection techniques.Read more ›
The Alienist is a book that is filled with both mystery and horror and it is absolutely riveting. Although a little over five hundred pages long, The Alienist is so fantastic and reads so well that we barely notice the pages going by. I read it in two evenings, something that is very rare for me; when a book is as good as this one is, I like to savor it and make it last. The first thing that most readers will wonder about is the somewhat strange title. What, exactly, is an alienist? Well, as Carr explains, prior to the twentieth century, those who were mentally ill were thought to be alienated, from society and from their own true nature as well. Those who studied the pathology of mental illness were thus known as "alienists." The plot centers around three friends: a journalist, John Moore; an alienist, Lazlo Kreizler; and a newly-appointed Police Commissioner who just happens to be Teddy Roosevelt. The three are working to solve a series of brutal murders that involves a string of boy prostitutes. Teddy, as would be expected, is on top of everything and appoints Dr. Kreizler to head the investigation into the murders. Moore is included by association only, it would seem, since he and Teddy went to Yale together. Coincidentally, Moore has only recently returned from England where he was busy covering the Jack the Ripper murders. Kreizler immediately begins to track the murders using what is known and what is unknown and via assumption as well. The twists and turns in this book are so complex and varied that both information and assumptions change almost as quickly as the team of investigators can piece them all together. As would be expected, tracking a serial killer in New York City isn't an easy job.Read more ›
If you want to read a historical mystery that you can't put down, look no further than The Alienist! Set in New York in 1896, Caleb Carr transports the reader to the smells and sights of that period. The reader is whisked away to dine at Delmonico's, sit in box seats at the Opera, and learn about Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to reform the NYC police department. The Alienist focuses on Dr. Leo Kreiszler and John Schuyler Moore, who Roosevelt calls in to investigate a serial killer who is targeting boy prostitutes. The three men join to put together a top-notch and thoroughly modern investigative team (including one of the first women allowed to work at the Department) to delve into the crimes with a combination of psychological profiling and novel techniques like finger-printing and crime-scene analysis. What I found most fascinating was the insights Carr provides into the formation of criminal science techniques that we now take for granted. Carr is a gifted writer with the ability to transport you to another time and place within pages. In addition, he knows how to write a good detective thriller. This one of the finest historical mysteries I've ever read and I highly recommend it.
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First of all, this book, at 600 pages, was about 200 pages longer than it really needed to be. The nail-biting suspense in 18th Century Manhattan was often interrupted by boring trips to South Dakota (or was it North Dakota, or Montana?), Washington D.C., and upstate New York ("downstate" for some). Carr tried to sink deeply into psychological and religious themes, but only succeeded in exploring these themes in an unconvincing and superficial manner. He did succeed in describing the bodies of mutilated boy prostitutes with excessive grotesqueness; however, this required little sophistication and is certainly not my idea of a literary accomplishment. With half-hearted romances that never blossom, and numerous shady characters lurking in the background for reasons left largely to the reader's speculation, "The Alienist" proved rather dissatisfying. Indeed, the "alienist" himself suddenly disappears for a lengthy period at a crucial moment in the book, but then reappears near the end to set things back in order (imagine that!). This is a nail-biter interspersed with sufficient dull moments to allow your nails to grow back.
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