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The Alienist Paperback – October 24, 2006
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Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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Top Customer Reviews
I read a mass-market edition of The Alienist. In that format, it was just at 600 pages. Unless a book is really wonderful, I tend to wear out when a book is that long. Not this one. It was a gripping read. I was sorry to close it up each night, and anxious to begin again the next evening. I'm also looking forward to reading the second in the series, "The Angel of Darkness".
The narrator in The Alienist is John Moore, a crime reporter. He becomes the Dr. Watson to his long-time Sherlockian friend, Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, an "alienist", as psychiatrists were then known since mentally-ill people were considered to be alien from themselves and society. Aided by their college friend, Theodore Roosevelt, who was the NYC Police Commissioner--- at a time when the extremely corrupt NYC police force was the focus of Teddy's clean-up efforts---Moore and Kreizler are provided with a small team of people who try to find a child-prostitute serial killer. You can read all these details in other reviewers' comments. I'll focus now on why I liked the book so much.
As always, story first. This one could have been a fairly routine serial-killer one, but the twists provided by the time period, the NYC setting and historical events, and the very interesting killer-finding team made it wonderfully enjoyable. Next, I thought that the writing was superb. Carr's phasing and cadence gave the narrative a turn-of-the-century feel. If you think about the letters of a Confederate soldier, or any of Dickens' or Bronte's books, you get what I mean. I forgot that I was reading something written by a contemporary writer. The story was delivered in a masterful way, with each chapter ending with a set-up for the next one. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I also loved the characters, every single one of them. (Each of them had an engaging back-story, and I could imagine them showing up again in another book.) I even felt the compassion for the killer that Dr. Kreizler encourages his team members to feel. A thoroughly good read, and a book and an author I can't believe I'm only now discovering. Highly recommended.
The author, Caleb Carr, goes beyond the paint-by-the-numbers form of traditional mystery form. There is lots of science, a good deal of it newly hatched, therefore disbelieved, contentiousness, yet generating awe. Forensics, aberrant psychology, particularly the aberrant forms, methodical investigative policing, objectivity, rather than prejudice, superstition, and questionable conjecture, are all parts of this story that takes place in that, for most, dark, dank, and dirty world of 1896 New York City.
Mr. Carr has done an incredible job of incorporating historical figures—Theodore Roosevelt, then the city's police commissioner; J.P. Morgan, the most powerful financier in America; and others. They mesh seamlessly with the fictional investigative team investigating the gruesome adolescent murders gripping the city, and striving and struggling to find the murderer.
And, how well the author created a three-dimensional evil, psychologically crippled and devilish protagonist. So much so that feeling sympathy for him despite his hideous work feels not strange or wrong.
So full is the book with detail, nuance, exceptional characters, and a fiendishly grand story—a classic that's a superlative example of how good mystery-thriller fiction can be—that I cannot avoid giving it 5 stars.