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The Alienist by Caleb Carr
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The Alienist

by Caleb Carr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,435201724 (3.96)317
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» See also 317 mentions

English (192)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Polish (1)  German (1)  All languages (199)
Showing 1-5 of 192 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this novel! It's a lot different from what I usually read and made for a nice change of pace. The character-building and mystery really kept me interested, as well as the setting. It's always fun read a book set in a place you know well, and The Alienist delivered very specific locations so I could picture exactly where the team of investigators were at any given time.

My only complaint was with the length. I have no issue with long books, but I felt like this one could have shaved 100 pages off and still have been in good shape. There were swaths of sections that I felt could have been trimmed down without losing the essential feeling of the book. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
At first glance, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist looks a lot like a New York version of Sherlock Holmes. The main action takes place in the 1890s (1896, specifically). There’s a Watson-like first-person narrator (John Moore, a reporter for The New York Times). And the protagonist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler) is a brilliant—if troubled—mind with unconventional investigative methods.

But the setting isn’t the only difference. For starters, it’s not Kreizler that’s the degenerate (as Holmes was in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales); it’s Moore. He drinks and gambles, which makes him a more colorful narrator than the upright Watson. I also appreciated that Carr’s female lead (Sara Howard) has an active role in the investigation. Most intriguing, though, is that Kreizler is an alienist. “Prior to the twentieth century,” Carr notes at the book’s beginning, “persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be ‘alienated,’ not only from the rest of society but from their own true natures. Those experts who studied mental pathologies were therefore known as alienists.”

In the 19th century, the field of psychology was still in its infancy, and Kreizler’s contention that childhood experiences shape adulthood is generally regarded with extreme skepticism. “If word gets out that you’ve brought someone like Kreizler in,” Moore says at one point, “why, you’d be better off hiring an African witch doctor!” But when a killer begins executing child prostitutes in horrific fashion, Teddy Roosevelt—at that time the commissioner of the New York Police Department—involves Kreizler anyway and asks him to covertly profile the murderer. Most of the novel focuses on this endeavor, following Kreizler and his team as they research and theorize their way to a picture of their quarry.

The process requires more guesswork than I remember Holmes engaging in (although, to be fair, I haven’t read one of his cases in over twenty years). Kreizler’s colleagues analyze each clue for meaning and fill a chalkboard with possible interpretations. Many of their ideas are reaches. “It’s just speculation,” John starts at one point. “John,” Sara interrupts. “That entire board is just speculation.” I found this frustrating at times—Holmes’ rapid (and unlikely!) deductions based on observing and connecting seemingly irrelevant details are often more fun. But the grinding nature of Kreizler’s methods feels more realistic.

I also respected the historical touches. Carr has Moore write his account of the investigation from a vantage of twenty years, enough time for him to plausibly slip in details that wouldn’t fit in a contemporary account. I learned all sorts of things about turn-of-the-century New York. Much of it wasn’t strictly relevant to the story. And some bits, like the political interference Kreizler faces as he gets closer to the truth, seemed forced. But the majority was extremely well done.

The same is true of The Alienist as a whole, making it a worthy successor to—and no mere retread of—Conan Doyle’s iconic works.

(For more reviews like this one, see www.nickwisseman.com) ( )
  nickwisseman | Jan 15, 2019 |
Meandering and dragging, especially near the end.

It was interesting, albeit, but not a recommended read. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 17, 2018 |
Carr is a historian first and storyteller second, which is especially clear in his frequent "info dumps." (These rival Neal Stephenson's for frequency, but lack NS's pizzazz or lyrical wit.) Still, this is a really enjoyable book, and I honestly couldn't stop reading. Definitely one I'd visit again. ( )
  wordsampersand | Dec 6, 2018 |
This is a very compelling read and makes the 500 plus pages fly by. A very itneresting look at forensics, serial killers during the late 1800s. This is a historical novel and a crime novel and a psychological novel. The book is narrated by John Moore a news reporter and looks back in history. The actually story occurs in 1896. It is gruesome. What I found interesting was the historical look at psychology in its earlier years. The author, per according to Wikipedia, has stated that his own experience of family violence informed his writing of this book. I was told that this reads fast and that was true. I can recommend this book to those that like crime fiction, mystery, history, ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 192 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Caleb Carrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dobson-Wright, ReneeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"They who would be young when they are old, must be old when they are young."

John Ray, 1670
2017 edition:
Whilst part of what we perceive comes through our senses from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own mind.
--William James
The Principles of Psychology
2017 edition:
These bloody thoughts,
from what are they born?
--Piave,
from Verdi's Macbeth
Dedication
This book is dedicated to

Ellen Blain, Meghann Haldeman,

Ethan Randall, Jack Evans,

and Eugene Byrd
2017 edition:
This edition is dedicated to
Those Readers Who Made It Possible
and to the memory of
Dr. David Abrahamsen
First words
January 8th, 1919

Theodore is in the ground.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812976142, Paperback)

The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or "alienist." On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan's infamous brothels.

        The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler's intellect and Moore's knowledge of New York's vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology-- amassing a psychological profile of the man they're looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before. and will kill again before the hunt is over.

        Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian's exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society's belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.


From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:44 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When a madman begins stalking victims on the streets of 1896 New York, a team of investigators is forced to apply radical and untested techniques that include fingerprinting and the controversial science of psychology.

» see all 7 descriptions

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