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The Angel of Darkness Hardcover – September 16, 1997

4 out of 5 stars 434 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Dr. Lazlo Kreizler Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, protagonist of The Alienist (LJ 3/1/94), is back with his idiosyncratic companions in Carr's latest mystery thriller. Set in 1897 New York and told through the voice of the doctor's young ward, Stevie (a former "delinquent" nicknamed "Stevepipe," after his weapon of choice), the story centers on the kidnapping of the baby daughter of a Spanish diplomat just as tensions between Spain and the United States have reached the boiling point. Soon our investigators discover something even more sinister: Their chief suspect seems to have been involved in the murders of several other young children?including two of her own?and to be willing to take any measures necessary to cover her tracks. It becomes a race against time to save this latest victim. The exciting tale is full of the requisite twists and turns and involves such historical figures as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clarence Darrow, and Teddy Roosevelt. It also makes the point that when it comes to questions of good and evil and the motivations behind seemingly horrific behavior (a la Susan Smith), there are no simple answers. Highly recommended for all public libraries and any others where good mystery writing is in demand.
-?David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An absorbing if overlong sequel to Carr's popular 1994 thriller, The Alienist. As in that novel, the figures of ``alienist'' (i.e., psychologist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, investigative journalist John Schuyler Moore, and Kreizler's assistant Stevie ``Stevepipe'' Taggert (who tells the story) figure prominently in the investigation of a peculiarly dastardly crime. The year is 1897, and Carr's plot is initiated by the kidnapping of a Spanish diplomat's baby--then thickens, quite pleasurably, as suspicion falls on Elspeth Hunter, a malevolent nurse who is actually Libby Hatch, a malevolent gang moll and the suspected murderess of her own children. The pursuit, capture, and attempted conviction of Libby involve such notable historical figures as painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, women's-rights crusader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Libby's defense attorney Clarence Darrow (who dominates a fascinating extended courtroom scene), and (back also from The Alienist) New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who commandeers the US Navy to aid in the story's climactic pursuit. Carr overloads his tale with digressive comments on ever-worsening political relations between the US and Cuba (though one can argue such passages' relevance to the novel's initial mystery), and disastrously slows down the otherwise absorbing courtroom scenes by including needless detailed summaries of cases of child murder offered as precedents. But these are minor blemishes. Carr has learned to plot since The Alienist, and this novel usually moves at a satisfyingly rapid pace. The ambiance is convincingly thick and period-flavorful, the murderous details satisfyingly gruesome, and even the somewhat shaky central ethical question--whether ``a woman's murdering her own kids . . . could actually be looked at as her trying to gain control over her life and her world''--is quite convincingly presented. As for the nefarious Libby--presented, with perfect appropriateness, only as others see and hear her--she rivals Lydia Gwilt of Wilkie Collins's Armadale as the pluperfect villainess, and the centerpiece of an enormously entertaining and satisfying reading experience. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 629 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st trade ed edition (September 16, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679435328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679435327
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (434 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Carr has done an excellent job. The story line and the characterizations were excellent.
To his credit, Carr manages to refer the reader to the protagonists' earlier adventure (see The Alienist) while at the same time providing enough information about the earlier adventure so that it stands alone. This serves both the reader familiar with the Alienist but who needs to have their recollections refreshed, and the first time Carr reader. (I am often frustrated and annoyed at authors who presume reader familiarity with their collected works.)
Carr also manages to portray early-day feminists and feminist theory in what I perceive to be an authentic fashion. In other words, I felt he accurately portrayed feminist thought in its incipient stages. Any so-called immaturity of thought on the parts of those characters seems, in historical context, appropriate.
My only complaint was the voice of the narrator, Stevie. The intonation, accent, and method of speaking may very well be accurate. However, I found it grating to see the obligatory "what" every few paragraphs. (E.G. The girl what had the burney.) I am both relieved and intrigued to hear that Carr plans to write additional Alienist volumes and put each one in a different voice. All in all, an excellent work.
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If you've already read "The Alienist" you can skip the first 100 pages of this book, it takes that long for Carr to settle into telling the story of Libby Hatch. Whereas "The Alienist" was told from the viewpoint of John Moore, a journalist for The New York Times, "The Angel of Darkness" is narrated by Stevie Taggart, one of the characters from that first book. Once the book actually gets going, however, it's first-rate, in particular the courtroom scenes with Clarence Darrow and the sections in which Stevie and Miss Howard (also from the first book) drive around upstate New York searching for information about the elusive Libby. Theodore Roosevelt makes a reappearance in this book as well although I thought his whole reason for getting involved in the case was a bit contrived. On the whole, however, it's a well-written and interesting book. Carr twice hints that the next book will be written from the perspective of the independent and energetic Sara Howard, which should be most interesting.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"A sequel to 'The Alienist'? YES! " I actually shouted that out loud in a library when I was told about "The Angel of Darkness." Again, Caleb Carr paints an intricate portrait of Golden Age New York, and brings back all the great characters from "The Alienist," utilizing a unique twist in changing his narrator from society reporter John Moore to the street-smart Stevie Taggert, whose less-than-perfect grammar doesn't obscure his keen observations. Again, Carr utilizes real-life historical figures, most notably a young Clarence Darrow, to bring authenticity to the story of a female child-murderer and the investigation that brings her heinous crimes to light. So why only four stars? Those of you who have read Ann Rule's "Small Sacrifices" will see a lot of Diane Downs in murderer Libby Hatch--in fact, Carr cites Rule's book as an influence. Overall, though, a great sequel--can't wait for the next one!
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It pains me to say anything derogatory about a Caleb Carr novel, as no one was more lavish in his praise of The Alienist than I was. First of all, while The Alienist was told by a journalist, this one is told by a former street urchin/hoodlum, Steve Taggart, nicknamed "Steve Pipe" for the weapon that saved him from being raped by a prison guard. It's a wonderfu idea to switch narrators, but it soon contradicts itself when Stevie says he's a simple man, so a simple way of telling things is the approache he'll take. Then he proceeds to write like Henry James channeling through Caleb Carr, using language and images that are far from simple. And the first several chapters are slow, over written, and the ending is a bit unsatisfying. All the said, there are still the marvelous Caleb Carr trademarks: the depth and breadth of New York society, complex plots, story twists and turns, and a feel that were are really there, walking down Broadway and riding through Gramercy Park and meeting another wonderful cast of characters. Like Robert Harris, whose brilliant Enigma was followed up by what I thought was a far inferior Pompeii, Mr. Carr has set his personal bar so high that matching himself is a great challenge. This book is long, detailed, will require some effort. But Caleb Carr's "B" game is better than many writer's "A" games, and when I finished, I would not have missed it. Just push yourself through the first few chapters and see if it hooks you like it did me and most of my reader friends.
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By A Customer on January 23, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Caleb Carr has brought together, in this novel, a motley organization of characters, some of whom represent people we know in everyday life, with the hopeful exceptions of Libby Hatch and, perhaps, the Dusters, and a few other folks. Not having read "The Alienist," as some other reviewers have, I am not in a position to compare this work against that one. And, rather than talking about the sultry conditions of parts of New York City at the last century's turn, or the plot line itself, or the emerging Spanish-American War, I prefer to focus on a couple of other issues that Carr asks us to consider.
I think an important question this book raises is society's role in constructing an image of what a woman is "supposed to be" that, in reality, does not and may never have conformed with who women actually are, but which may make certain people feel more comfortable. If, further, society, which has been arguably more influenced by men than by women, creates an image that some women simply cannot fit into, who is to be held responsible for her transgression -- the woman or society? Both? Neither? Another issue is just as significant, I think, and revolves around whether it is more important to punish persons like Libby Hatch for their heinous behavior or to spend our energy trying to understand why they do such things as murder their own and other children, so we can possibly learn, from understanding them, how to avert future travesties.
Carr may have overextended believability by including characters like Darrow and Roosevelt, and left some of us feeling bereft by not allowing us to get to know El Nino or Kat a bit better, but Darrow does play a central, if more psychological than legal, role in a singularly important part of the narrative.
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