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The Alienist Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, June 1, 1995

852 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Dr. Lazlo Kreizler Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (July 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553572997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553572995
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (852 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

233 of 238 people found the following review helpful By K. Bourn on May 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By drdebs on October 23, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on December 9, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Caleb Carr has written a good tale. I think this one rates about three and one-half stars.
This 1896 murder tale is gruesome and intelligent at the same time. The murder scene descriptions are grotesque, but do not seem gratuitous in this tale of the search for a serial killer by an unusual team of investigators. (Although I would not recommend the book for early or mid-teenagers. This is a PG-17 novel). The investigators are a psychologist (alienist), journalist, two police detectives and a woman. This allows the author to explore psychology, the muckraking and reform press, a police force transitioning from corrupt to professional methods and the nascent woman's movement.
On the positive side, anyone interested in historical fiction will be enthralled by the descriptions of turn of the century New York. Historical figures abound, prominently police commissioner Roosevelt (although he comes off as a bit cartoonish for anyone who has read Roosevelt biographies). J.P Morgan and Anthony Comstock also make appearances.
Mr. Carr does great justice to atmospherics. The tenement houses reek in the imagination and New York's cold and wet streetscape chills the reader thanks to very good descriptive writing.
Anyone interested in the founding of modern psychology will enjoy the great debates that attended its birth. Psychological analysis is the backbone for this murder investigation, as are "new" police methods such as fingerprinting and handwriting analysis.
The story itself is enjoyable, although for some reason it took me three tries to get into this book. One reason is that Mr. Carr uses a lot of words to tell his tale. No new noun is introduced without its background being explored or appearance described. I thought at one point that had Mr.
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