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230 of 235 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Silence of the Lambs' meets Jack the Ripper (so to speak), May 27, 2003
This review is from: The Alienist (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. Detectives Lucius and Marcus Isaacson, assigned to assist the investigation, employ the not-yet-accepted science of fingerprinting and other methods of identification in their hunt for the killer.
"The Alienist" is one of the few murder mysteries that I have ever enjoyed reading a second time. The characters are memorable, dryly amusing at times, and always fascinating. Carr portrays his victims as humans and individuals, rather than sensationalizing their professions. The plot, including a race against time once the team predicts when the killer is likely to strike again, moves along at a brisk pace. The historical detail advances the plot rather than bogging it down.
Lovers of historical fiction and detective mysteries will find a treat in "The Alienist."
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2010 10:03:59 AM PDT
I just purchased the book knowing nothing about it. This review confirms that I made the right choice.

Posted on Jul 11, 2013 9:04:08 AM PDT
vb 2721 says:
I agree 100%!! This is one of those types of books you wouldn't mind reading 2 or 3 times bc its so well written and mesmerizing to read! Teddy Roosevelt as the Police commissioner and all the vivid historical detail - simply amazing!! I wish they came out w/ a movie. Also loved his follow up book 'Angel Of Darkness'
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