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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.

498 pages, Paperback

First published March 15, 1994

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About the author

Caleb Carr

44 books2,970 followers
Caleb Carr is an American novelist and military historian. The son of Lucien Carr, a former UPI editor and a key Beat generation figure, he was born in Manhattan and lived for much of his life on the Lower East Side. He attended Kenyon College and New York University, earning a B.A. in military and diplomatic history. He is a contributing editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History and writes frequently on military and political affairs.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,262 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,453 followers
February 7, 2017
I don’t know about your shelves but my shelves of unread books have become clogged with novels I thought I wanted to read five or six years ago and now I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read them and since I’ve now read all the ones I could remember why I wanted to read them I’m left with this scurvy crew, and there they are, glaring at me and muttering hey, you, get with the program, read me. And some turn on the waterworks and cry out beseechingly ohhh please mister, I’ve been so patient for six years now, I need to be read. I feel like a right bastard but I have to be honest – why are you there? I ask them. Why are you taking up this valuable real estate? I’m talking to you, Continental Drift, Tiger the Lurp Dog, Imaginary Women and Smonk. Smonk?? What the hell is Smonk? But of course they don’t know. No book knows why you buy it. Just like you don’t know why you’re born.

You might think the blurbs on these books could give a clue but blurbs lie. You would have to waterboard a blurb to get anything like the truth out of it but waterboarding is illegal. I have stopped doing that now.

Course I do know why some books are there – these are the Novels I Should Have Read By Now. There they stand sneering at me like undone homework – The Forsyte Saga, Sister Carrie, The Way We Live Now, The Ambassadors, Middlemarch – all big enough to bust up your big toe real bad if they fell on it. Herr, herr, he’s scared of us, they jeer. Yer big Jessie.

I just about remembered why I bought The Alienist years ago – I love modern Victorian novels like Fingersmith or The Quincunx, and I like a nice gruesome murder and I do believe this novel smashes these concepts together so what could therefore not be to like?

I gave it the statutory 100 pages then stopped. It wasn’t bad but I could see where this thing was going and a wave of tiredness came over me. What we have is yet another version of the brilliant Sherlock Holmes (Dr Kreizler) and the tough, dependable Dr Watson (John Moore); plus the usual highly unlikely gaggle of helpers – a giant black guy, two Jewish detectives, a remarkably feisty female police secretary who packs a .45 – really, all from central casting. Should we say, all from Liberal Left Central Casting – once again, all the good guys in the novel have nice progressive inclusive non-racist attitudes. The kind of attitudes modern readers would feel comfortable with, however likely they may have been in New York 1896. And once again our heroes are faced with a giant conspiracy of the powerful who like to prey on the powerless and chop them up for fun.

We have been here before. Many times. Really, it’s a little bit corny. But that’s crime fiction. When I listen to doo wop music or blues I know what I’m going to get. When I read a big 500 page novel I don’t want to know what I’m going to get.

And now…. onto Smonk!
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
November 14, 2019
***New TV series based on the book is showing on TNT and launching January 22nd, 2018.***

”I caught a vague glimpse of human flesh glowing in the moonlight. We took a few steps closer, and then I made out plainly the figure of a naked young boy on his knees. His hands had been bound behind his back, causing his head to rest on the stone surface of the promenade, and his feet were similarly tied. A gag had been wrapped around his head, holding his painted mouth open at a painful angle. His face was glistening with tears; but he was alive.”

 photo The20Alienist_zps07ntypky.jpg

Some demented fiend is leaving mutilated and brutalized corpses of young boys all over New York City. It is 1896, and Theodore Roosevelt is the newly appointed police commissioner. In a highly unorthodox move, he appoints his old friends Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, Alienist, and John Schuyler Moore, journalist, to a special task force to hunt down this killer and bring him to justice. Too many of the cops in the New York system are just criminals with badges and more interested in graft and corruption than finding a killer, especially one who is murdering nancy boy prostitutes.

Hurry or a child will die!

What the heck is an Alienist, you might ask? Alienist is an archaic term for a psychiatrist or psychologist. Despite falling out of favor by the middle of the twentieth century, it received renewed attention when used in the title of Caleb Carr's novel, The Alienist (1994). Although currently not often used in common parlance, the term ‘alienist’ is still employed in psychiatric hospitals to describe those mental health professionals who evaluate defendants to determine their competency to stand trial. However, in this context, professionals are more often referred to as forensic psychologists.”

Kreizler is an unmistakable, unusual character that, once met, you’d never forget him. ”His black eyes, so much like a large bird’s, flitted about the paper as he shifted from one foot to the other in sudden, quick movements. He held the Times in his right hand, and his left arm, underdeveloped as the result of a childhood injury, was pulled in close to his body. The left hand occasionally rose to swipe at his neatly trimmed mustache and the small patch of beard under his lip. His dark hair, cut far too long to meet the fashion of the day, and swept back on his head, was moist, for he always went hatless; and this, along with the bobbing of his face at the pages before him, only increased the impression of some hungry, restless hawk determined to wring satisfaction from the worrisome world around him.”

These are early days for profiling serial killers, but Kreizler and his team are using the evidence they are collecting to build a file that slowly adds shape and substance to the shadowy figure killing these young boys. Poverty insures that there are no shortage of disadvantaged immigrant boys to replace the ones who are being culled from the herd. For most of New York, these murders are merely a brief distraction with their coffee or a topic for repartee over dinner. For Kreizler and Moore, it is a situation that becomes more sinister and diabolical the more they learn about the killer.

Hurry or a child will die!

They add a pair of incorruptible brothers to their team and a police secretary named Sara Howard. Kreizler has made a habit of collecting unusual people over the years. He also has several ex-criminals working for him who add some muscle and street smarts to the group. The trail of this killer sends some of them out west to see if his origins will give them any clues to his motivations. In NY, they interview boys in places like Paresis Hall, where the skin trade is exploited and soiled doves are 12 years old or even younger. They troll the seamiest gin mills and gangster hangouts, looking for any information that will help them close in on this fiendish killer. Brushing the grime, soot, and filth from their close encounters with the sordid nightlife are contrasted with their enjoyment of the splendors of the opera house and the delicious, famous Delmonicos Restaurant.

Hurry or a child will die!

Their investigation also brings them in contact with the world famous Black Library, owned by the very wealthy J. P. Morgan. It is fascinating how the most unseemly, seedier sides of town always seem to intersect with the most affluent, “elite” society. There are secrets masked by the silk wallpaper and hidden behind brocade curtains.

 photo the-alienist_zpslcirab00.jpg

This is the second time I’ve read this book. The first time was back in 1994 when it was first released, and both times I’ve been struck with the authenticity of experiencing Victorian New York from the locations, disreputable and elegant, we are allowed to visit during the investigation to the fog strewn streets as they race to catch a killer before he can strike again.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
July 18, 2011
This book was FIZZING which, according to my 19th Century Art of Manliness glossary, means excellent, top notch. Well, fizzing it was. Through most of this book, I had it rated at 5.0 stars as I was absolutely captivated by the writing, the characters and the plot and loved how they were all deftly tethered to a great depiction of late 19th Century everyday life.

I would describe this as a psychological thriller and detective mystery set in the 1890's and blending a Sherlock Holmes type investigator (i.e., Dr. Lazlo Kreizler) and a Hannibal Lector/Jeffrey Dahmer like serial killer straight of today. For me, what set it over the top good was the healthy dose of historical fiction thrown in for interesting background. It just gave the book a unique, interesting feel as it had the darkness and grit of a present day "hunt the serial killer" story but with the customs, constraints and daily rituals of 19th Century New York life.

In addition, to the excellent job the author did in establishing a sense of place, I also really liked the way Carr incorporated into the narrative several "real life" murderers that were contemporaries of the killer in this novel. This added a sense of authenticity that upped the creepy on the rest of the plot. For example, the book refers to Dr. H.H. Holmes whose murders were depicted in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America and Jesse Pomeroy who was depicted in Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of Americas Youngest Serial Killer).

The main character, Dr. Kreizler, was excellent abel focused a great vehicle to carry the plot forward. The pacing was good and mytstery solving aspects of this novel (i.e., the piecing together of clues and discussions of what they mean) about as good as it gets. There is real talent in this work and I was greatly impressed by the read.

My one gripe is that I thought the ending, while in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book, was a little flat. I was hoping for a better payoff and ended up with a slight case of literary "blue brains" when I didn't get the release I was hoping for. Thus I lowered my overall rating to 4.5 stars because nobody likes "blue brains."

Still I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this to fans of the genre or just someone looking for a great story. I will definitely be checking out the sequel.

Nominee: Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.
Profile Image for Adina.
827 reviews3,225 followers
May 23, 2017
Update: I am so excited. I just found out there's going to be a Tv series after the novel. Here is the trailer and it looks amazing with a great cast. Can't wait.

I realized that I can usually feel a 5* book from the first 50 pages. There is something in the author’s voice that gets to me. The same thing happened with The Alienist. It just had me at hello.

The novel is historical fiction written by a non-fiction author. Although I could feel that background from the attention to the detail he employed in the description of the historical setting, it was never dull and he did a great job to introduce me in the atmosphere of 1896, New York and its underworld. I particularly enjoyed that he used as characters real people (e.g. Teddy Roosevelt) and he mingled them with fictional ones in a way that they all seemed real to me. I was expecting for Dr. Laszlo Kreizler to be an actual doctor from that time and I was quite disappointed when I found out he never existed.

This is a very well written psychological thriller which focuses more on the whydunit than on whodonit. I loved how the investigation team came up with the psychological traits of the killer and searched for the perpetrator based on them. It is a novel about the early stages of criminal profiling, quite a fascinating subject.

My only regret was that I did not have enough time to read and I had to enjoy this beautiful book in small bites which altered the flow of my experience.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,642 reviews5,091 followers
August 12, 2016
I guess I just need more than a mammoth miniseries version of a steampunk-era CSI episode. I've never enjoyed that show - what little I've watched of it - because the minutia of forensic science and criminal psychology utterly bore me when they are not tied to interesting themes, characters with depth, or a rich atmosphere. the entirely insipid protagonist made me entirely frustrated. the pedestrian prose made me want to scream. the fact that the cover is the most evocative thing about a novel that should have had atmosphere to die for made me feel like I was dying inside each time I turned the page only to discover 100% plot mechanics and 0% anything of interest besides the, I suppose, "page-turning" plot. the whole experience of reading this book was excruciating. however if you are a fan of CSI, then this is probably a 4 or 5 star book for you. enjoy!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,226 reviews1,273 followers
January 19, 2018
"In this battle, there are many enemies."

And that's an understatement.......The darkly moving shadows seeking oblivion, nameless figures shapeshifting in back alleys and roof tops. The click of heels down rain-soaked streets leading to nowhere and to everywhere. Secrets until they are no longer.

New York City in 1896 is a mecca for the meaningful and the meaningless. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt has been faced with the dregs of society: thieves, murderers, brutalizers, and sexual deviants. They swim like river rats through the streets knowing just what hole to crawl into.

But this time, there's a killer on the loose whose target is young male prostitutes. His calling card is a savagely violent one. Roosevelt calls in Dr. Laszlo Kreizler whose command lies in the area of psychology and human criminal behavior. Psychological profiling is in its earliest stages along with the newly adopted science of fingerprinting. Kreizler creates a group of individuals including John Moore and Sara Howard. You'll meet a cast of goodies and severe baddies who will either honestly assist or dastardly sabotage the hunt for the killer on all sides of the law.

Be forewarned: This is a very graphic interlude into unspeakable crimes on the streets of New York. It certainly is not for everyone. But the writing and storyline are stellar and will play into the upcoming series on TLC beginning soon. I was nearly cross-eyed from reading into the wee hours in order to be ready for the series.

And on the flip side.......Here's hoping that these remarkable characters (especially my beloved Teddy Roosevelt) are handed off to worthy actors who will transform this book into a top-drawer experience for those who wait anxiously. Just stick to the book, people, and we'll all be tap dancing like the Rockettes.
Profile Image for Bobby Underwood.
Author 100 books260 followers
January 29, 2018
Caleb Carr's novel of a serial killer on the loose in turn of the century New York, and the dangerous pursuit of him by Dr. Lazlo Kreizler and his friends is a truly wonderful read. This has so much period atmosphere the reader can almost hear the hoofbeats trotting over the cobblestone streets beneath gaslit street lamps. It is long and exciting, yet not long enough, because by the time you finish, you'll feel like many of these people are your friends, and want to spend more time with them.

The riveting story is narrated by Dr. Kreizler's good friend, John Moore. Before you are finished reading this delicious historical mystery you will meet an array of interesting and memorable characters you'll come to cherish. Sara Howard is a pretty and extremely capable woman ahead of her time. Sara and Kreizler's pal, Moore, push the investigation forward against strong opposition from conventional law enforcement. Two New York cops also ahead of their time, Lucius and Marcus, will use footwork and cutting-edge investigative techniques to catch a dangerous killer. A young street urchin, Stevie, saved from a miserable future by the good doctor, and a very loyal servant named Cyrus round out this rag-tag group that confront the unthinkable. They will break new ground, using Lazlo's "profile" to catch a serial killer.

When Lazlo's old friend, Theodore Roosevelt, now head of the New York Police Department, is confronted with several murders of boy prostitutes so gruesome in nature that even the most seasoned and hardened of professionals can barely stomach being called to the murder scenes, he makes a decision that will change the face of police-work forever. He unofficially allows Kreizler to form a small group to pursue the killer through psychological profiling. Police secretary Sara Howard, and crime reporter John Moore, a man who knows the underbelly of New York all to well, are two of the main players in this exciting mystery. As they close in on the killer through Kreizler's use of psychological profiling, danger hits closer to home than any of our friends had expected.

There are moments so full of flavor in this fine historical mystery that you'll feel like you are sitting alongside the characters at Delmonico's as they enjoy a good meal, and plan their next move. This fine novel is truly memorable, and holds a special place among books I've read. If you love historical mysteries you do not want to miss this one!
Profile Image for Labijose.
957 reviews416 followers
February 11, 2021
Le daría con gusto las cinco estrellas por la soberbia ambientación con que el autor nos deleita. El Nueva York de 1896 está tan magistralmente narrado, que bien podría tratarse más de un ensayo que de la presente novela. Creo que es su auténtico punto fuerte, y, en ese sentido, ha sido una delicia. La decrepitud y sordidez de una ciudad que estaba llamada a convertirse en una de las más importantes del mundo, mezclada con el lujo y el glamour de, pongamos por caso, el viejo Metropolitan, o el Delmonico’s (abierto al público en 1837, con, presuntamente, columnas importadas de Pompeya). Por esa parte, la de la recreación, me quito el sombrero.

También me ha gustado mucho que esta novela esté centrada en el inicio de ciencias criminales que, con el tiempo, cobrarían una importancia capital en la resolución de crímenes. Lucius y Marcus simbolizan el despertar de la dactiloscopia, entre otras disciplinas que todavía ni se imaginaban. El propio Laszlo Kreizler simboliza los inicios de una psicología criminal que se centra no tanto en el “quién lo hizo”, sino en el “por qué lo hizo”. Y aunque sus acciones no siempre están bien justificadas dentro de la trama, creo que es el mejor personaje. En cuanto a James Moore, nuestro reportero y relator, nos ofrece unas descripciones tan prolíficas como extenuantes, y es ahí donde la novela se puede hacer tremendamente pesada, alargándose en exceso y haciéndote perder la concentración en más de una ocasión, al menos en mi caso. El personaje de Sarah (una de las primeras mujeres en ser admitidas en el cuerpo de policía) también me parece poco aprovechado. Y de su vida interior prácticamente nos quedamos en blanco.

Y luego está lo que viene a echarlo casi todo a perder, un final soso y plano, donde el doctor Kreizler se juega su vida y la de Moore en pos de la ciencia, sabiendo que están en manos del asesino. Un final que petardea y te deja frío cual invierno neoyorquino. Demasiadas páginas para tan pobre resolución.

Y en cuanto a la serie de televisión (Netflix), cumple las mismas directrices que la novela. Una ambientación soberbia, extraordinaria en todos los sentidos. Unos personajes planos (aquí el doctor Kreizler sale incluso peor parado), y un final que no desmerece la narración, es decir, tan soso como en la novela. Y aún así creo que sale ganando la serie. A la novela la dejo en tres estrellas. A la serie le subo mi puntuación a cuatro. Y, además, si no hubiese sido por ella, seguiría teniendo la novela en mi saco de lecturas pendientes, per saecula saeculorum.

Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews524 followers
January 28, 2016
Prior to the twentieth century, 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 know as alienists.

At two a.m. on March 3rd, 1896 someone comes pounding on the door of John Moore’s grandmother’s house in New York City. Not drunk, nor particularly sober, when called from his bed, John is immediately whisked away by carriage, to the site of the still under construction Williamsburg Bridge on the East River. On arrival he is greeted by none other than Theodore Roosevelt (yes the future president). Still unsure why he is there or why his friend Dr. Kreizler, whose very carriage bore him there, is not in attendance, John casts about and around until finally he lay eyes upon it; the brutally, mutilated body of an adolescent boy. It will not be the last one he sees.

As I was reading this I often thought that it read like an actual historic event, being retold as a story. After all Mr Carr first dipped his pen in the nonfiction inkwell. Scattered throughout this story are actual historical figures, which belong in that time and place, such as Teddy Roosevelt, H. H. Holmes and Jesse Pomeroy. And that pen of which I speak, spills magic as Carr deftly transports you to an atmospheric late 19th century New York City, complete with the sights ( street vendors hawking their wares; police corruption and brutality; unwashed, malnourished children running wild), sounds (hooves on cobblestones) and smells (quite disgusting reminders of time before modern day sewage systems) one would expect.

It is a first person narrative told through the perspective of John Moore, reporter on the police beat, as a recollection of events past. I know there are readers out there who felt that this robbed the story of some of its tension and suspense, I mean clearly John had to survive to tell the tale, but it did not have the same effect on me. There were plenty of other characters that Carr had me caring enough about to ensure a tight fisted grip upon the page. One such character is Dr. Laszlo Kreiszler, psychologist, or as they were then known, an alienist. Kreizler, at Roosevelt’s request and with his assistance, pulls together a team; including the above noted John as well as two detectives, trained in and excited at the prospect of using new and modern methods such as fingerprinting and handwriting analysis, as well as Sara, Roosevelt’s secretary who has ambitions to rise well beyond her current role in the NYC police department, ambitions which though stubbornly determined to achieve, she recognizes, are not even open for consideration as an appropriate role for a woman in 1896. Kreizler then leads this team, together with a smattering of some of his colourful (I am looking at you Stevie), personal aides through the process of what we today would term as psychological profiling. All very heady and compelling stuff.

As the profile, coupled with conclusions drawn from the physical evidence available, begins to take on the aspect of a real person, the team closes in on an absolutely horrific monster. I have also read some negative feedback on how this story comes to a conclusion. Some feel it was rushed or they were cheated of further psychological details, but again I cannot share those views. Given the circumstances, the details already unearthed and the political climate of that time and place, I found the ending realistically consistent with my expectations of what would in all likelihood actually happen.

If you are looking for an intelligent, high spirited, in depth, look at the mind of a sadistic serial killer as well as a stroll through the late 19th century streets of New York City then you should most assuredly pick up The Alienist. It is a thumping good read!
Profile Image for Dalton Lynne.
Author 21 books11 followers
August 4, 2011
If I had to sum up The Alienist with one word it would be this: plodding. The description of the book on Goodreads calls it 'fast-paced'. False advertising right there! Fast-paced it most certainly was not. LOL

The book was a bit of a disappointment in various ways.

One, I didn't feel much of an emotional connection with the main characters. I don't know why ... whether it was the author's writing style, the time period, or what. But I just wasn't drawn in to their world or their personalities. I cared more about some of the sideline characters than any of the primary ones.

Two, it seemed that at any opening, the author took the time to go off on historical tangents that didn't appear to serve much purpose for the plot but felt like they were primarily done to provide a 'feel' for the environment. Sometimes those diversions can work in a book, but more often than not, in this book they didn't. At least, not for me. I kept thinking ... "Get ON with it!!"

Three, the ending was rather anti-climactic. There was this huge build-up about the killer and when the 'face off' occurred it was just ... meh. That could have been due to the fact that by the time the ending of the book came around I was eager for it to be over and done with, so there wasn't much I was inclined to appreciate by that point.

The reason I can't give the book three stars is because on Goodreads, three stars is for 'liked it'. I didn't really like it as much as I'd wanted to, so a two star label fits better for me - two stars is for 'it was ok'. And that's how I feel about the book. It wasn't great, it wasn't the worst book I've ever read, I didn't really LIKE it a whole lot, so it was just ... okay.

My feelings about this book come as a surprise to me, given the great reviews I'd read. I'd been looking forward to reading/listening to it, but by the time it was over I was thinking: FINALLY!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,343 reviews4,863 followers
December 31, 2021

4.5 stars

New York City in 1896 isn't the nicest place to live. Outside of the ritzy neighborhoods the apartment buildings are shabby, overcrowded, and smelly; the streets are dirty and dangerous.....

…..and whore houses of every kind are prolific and unregulated.

Moreover criminals operate freely and government agencies and police are largely corrupt. To add to the city's problems a serial killer is murdering and mutilating children, mostly young boy prostitutes who dress up as girls.

The murderer gouges out their eyes, cuts off their genitals and buttocks, leaves them in gruesome positions, and so on.

Enter Theodore Roosevelt, the new Police Commissioner of New York, who wants to rout out police corruption.

Roosevelt has dismissed some of the worst offenders and, in the face of strong opposition, is willing to use unorthodox methods to catch the child killer. Thus a rather unconventional secret investigative team is assembled, led by Dr. Laszlo Kreizler - a psychiatrist (or alienist as they were known at the time).

Laszlo's other team members are John Schuyler Moore, a newspaper reporter;

Sara Howard, a would-be detective who's currently Roosevelt's secretary;

….. and Detective Sergeants Marcus Isaacson and Lucius Isaacson, two talented and incorruptible cops.

A couple of Kreizler's former patients also help out: Cyrus, a big black man who functions as a bodyguard and assistant;

and young Stevie, a messenger and carriage driver.

Laszlo and his group are more or less distant precursors to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. They study psychology books and lectures to suss out how and why the perpetrator evolved into a vicious psychopath. The team also assembles clues by examining crime scenes,

…..collecting fingerprints, interviewing witnesses, consulting old records,

visiting places the killer may have lived, etc.

Step by step, the team assembles a physical and psychological picture of the killer.

During their inquiries, the investigators are constantly followed, threatened, harassed, hampered, and even attacked.

It seems that powerful forces in the city - including slumlords, businessmen, gang bosses, ex-cops, and religious leaders - don't want the child killings investigated. They fear widespread public awareness of the horrific crimes will rile up the populace and interfere with their money-making schemes. This of course is reprehensible, especially for churches.

The investigation is long and complex, and - though it isn't exactly boring - feels like a lot for the reader to slog through at times. We also gets a peek at how some wealthier New York residents live, with fine dining at Delmonico's;

…..classy homes;

…..luxe furnishings;


…...attendance at the opera; and so on.

Needless to say the team's hard work eventually pays off and leads to a dramatic climax.

The characters in the story are engaging and sufficiently fleshed out for a thriller. I especially liked tough, fearless, gun-toting Sara. She holds her own as the only female on the investigative team and, in fact, the only woman working in the police department - where most people think she doesn't belong. And I got a kick out of little Stevie, who's anxious to help and always cadging cigarettes despite numerous anti-smoking lectures from Lazslo. A jarring note in the story (for me) is a nebulous, unlikely romance that doesn't ring true.

Over all, a very good psychological thriller, recommended for fans of the genre.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Lain.
Author 13 books120 followers
May 12, 2008
I tend not to like historical fiction, but this one blew me away. I challenge any thriller-and-suspense lover to try this book and not get hooked by the end of the first chapter. Fabulous.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
628 reviews383 followers
December 10, 2017
Five Questions to Help Decide if You Should Read Caleb Carr's The Alienist

1) Do you love a good thriller?

Because what you might find between the covers of this book is a story that is anything but your typical thriller. Though it contains many frights, twists, and tense moments, the pace is much different from your standard fare. Carr chooses to unfold the tale of the shocking murders of child prostitutes as a journey of almost-academic discovery led by the Sherlock-esque Laszlo Kreizler. Though there's all the elements of your run-of-the-mill nail biter, they are spaced out over long periods and occasionally eschew the traditional clip for which the genre is famous. That isn't to say that the book is not compelling or hard to put down!

2) Do you like your books thick?

Because The Alienist was more of an undertaking than I had been expecting. Carr's formatting of the book as the memoirs of John Shuyler Moore allows him to luxuriate amidst the the 1890's setting that he so convincingly brings to life. At first this felt like unnecessary and I was begging for tighter editing. Pushing past my millennial attention span, I found that by the time the book really starts to pick up, Carr had beautifully established the world and made me care for his characters. Each paragraph is laden with detail, and while not all of it is vital to the story, it helps to enrich Carr's vision of 1869 New York.

3) Did you love Mindhunter?

Because I sure did! Though the chronological proximity in which I consumed them likely colours my judgement, I couldn't help but compare Carr's novel to the excellent, David Fincher-directed serial killer drama on Netflix. Both stories feature a colourful cast of characters who rarely shy away from the morally and physically revolting subject matter with which they deal. Like Mindhunter, The Alienist sees the team trading academic insights into the mutilation and murders of the killers whom they hunt and struggling against those who disagree with their atypical methods. Suffice to say, if you like the pace and tone of Mindhunter and can imagine it transplanted into the late 1800's, you'll like this too.

4) Do you like a good cast?

Because Carr populates his novel with many endearing characters outside of the good doctor, Laszlo Kreizler. Moore serves as a rakish and hard-drinking journalist who is dismayed to have been cast aside by his former fiancé. Moore's narration works, in part, because he is present for all the most thrilling of occurrences, but also because he offers a relatable window through which the reader can view the macabre and academic nature of the team's work. Sara Howard is also compelling in both her natural adaptation to the work and her steadfast struggle against the patriarchy. Mixed in with these three leads are a host of other wonderful characters who were a joy to meet whether they were in the story for pages or throughout.

5) Do you like to do a bit of thinking?

Because The Alienist proved to be a much more cerebral novel than I had anticipated. Not only does the book take an intellectual approach to murder-hunting but it also addresses social upheaval at the turn of the century, child prostitution, immigration, and much more. I was a little taken aback at first when I saw how much time Carr intended to spend on the broadening of societal woes. Luckily, this makes for a book that feels both like a challenge overcome and a reward earned by the time I closed its final pages. If you can handle a book that's not only different from your standard thriller, but a bit of a thinker too then you'll be well-pleased with Carr's novel.
Profile Image for Patricia Williams.
576 reviews127 followers
December 18, 2017
This was a very interesting, very thick book. Lots of history and lots of information about forensic psychology and ways to hunt for a serial killer. Lots of good characters including Theodore Roosevelt. It was a long read but I did enjoy it and wanted to read it before the TV series starts in the new year. I think this is a series so I will certainly want to read more. I do become very attached to the main characters. Won't give anything away about the storyline but by second half of book I was wanting to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. Lots of suspense.
Profile Image for Ginger.
752 reviews370 followers
April 4, 2023
I had no idea that I would get a book like this!

A gritty historical fiction plot of a dangerous murderer and the resilient protagonists trying to stop the killings from happening.

The Alienist is all of this and more.

We get police procedures and forensics that have not been used before and were at the forefront of this profession. We get a scrappy investigative journalist and a criminal psychologist trying to understand who the killer is and what their next move is.

And then the book throws in some real-life characters to give the book a non-fiction feel to it.

We have our formidable character of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States who in 1896 was a commissioner for the New York City police department.
The brave character of Sara Howard who is modeled after Isabella Goodwin, the first female detective of the NYPD.
And for thrills and more drama, the greatest banker in America’s history and one of the most influential investors of all time shows up, J.P. Morgan.

I’m happy that I finally read this book.

If you're like me, you have an mountain of books to read. They've been sitting there for years in your to-read-list. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride since you can't seem to stay away from new books or group reads.
Once again, they've been forgotten!

I have no idea why I waited so long to get to The Alienist after finishing last night.

The characters, writing and setting of New York City during 1896 is everything that I love in historical fiction.
It's got it all from dangerous gangsters, seedy prostitution houses, corrupt police officers, to the sad state of poverty and tenements back then.

In all honesty, get to the books on that ole TBR mountain.
If this book is on your list like it was on mine, don't wait! I don't think you'll regret giving it a chance.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,953 reviews485 followers
May 12, 2018
The television series is on "my list" for Netflix and like any reader, I must read the book first. Well, I am now a Dr. Laslo Kreizler fan or should I be more accurate and state that I am a big fan of the pairing between Lazlo and the narrator of the story, crime reporter, John Schyuler Moore. This 19th century mystery about a serial killer hunting down young boys is not for the faint hearted. But oh my goodness, it's incredibly hard to put aside!
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews544 followers
January 25, 2018
To paraphrase Jules from Pulp Fiction, "Say Marches Carcano chair one more time...." BAM!

Sorry. My tolerance for the repeated naming of the characters' fabulous Italian chairs, bought at auction, was shot by the fifth time the overinflated verbiage was used. I don't know, maybe the writer - a history buff - made this furniture up based on a famous murder weapon. A Carcano was what was used to kill JFK, if you didn't know. Anyway, I was ready to fire a gun into these ridiculous chairs myself.

EDIT: in trying to give the book its due, I read that the author has gone back to writing non-fiction, military history books. That seemed like a better fit, and I just now clicked on his author profile to see if there were something my son, a military history buff, might like. HA! The first thing I saw was that Caleb Carr read and reviewed The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America - he gave it TWO STARS! Oh the irony.

Let me back up. I first read The Alienist 20 some years ago. Upon joining GoodReads, like you, I went through some lists of books and gauged my old reads based on memory. It was one of those psychological thrillers popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Patricia Cornwell's forensic murder investigations, the FBI profilers who sought out Buffalo Bill via Hannibal Lecter, those true crime books from Ann Rule, and the cult-fave "why-dun-it" The Secret History by Donna Tart were en vogue with publishers and readers alike. Here, we do have some nice tie-ins to real events and personas from late 1800s NYC. Im guessing New Yorkers will have gotten a kick out of this backdrop - this is like CSI NYC: Century 19.

I gave The Alienist three stars then and now a two, re-reading it as a commitment for book club. The story is a Sherlock Holmes-Dr. Watson trope with a token emancipated female, a black sidekick, compassion for the gay community, and a couple of unappreciated-by-the-police-force-but-brilliant Jewish detectives. One of the victims is a kid with middle Eastern heritage, too - the author ticked every box he could including Irish cops on the dole and clergy being paid off by the uber wealthy. He even tossed in some animal cruelty. Lastly, the analysis of abnormal human psychology was about as deep as a write up in Cosmo magazine.

Now, if you have never read any true-crime books or novels where profiling is described, then you may actually enjoy this story. But let me better suggest His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae for something also set in the 1800s and about a thousand times better than this!

I do confess to having a crush on Teddy Roosevelt and initially was delighted to see his role crop up throughout the book - I had forgotten he was in the story. Unfortunately, the author rather wrote Roosevelt like a caricature of himself, even feeling compelled to insert the appearance of Roosevelt's overly boisterous children, one after another. Yes, I know he was a terrific father and loved his children to be active, but this little section was over the top. We had to hear the exclamation BULLY! way too often.

Little stuff that bugged me? There were sections in The Alienist where the characters turned their noses up at hardworking farmers or less affluent passengers on a train, and yet while at the opera, their dialogue slammed New York's upper crust for not wanting to associate with a mere crime reporter and an alienist/psychologist. Aside from the constant mention of the aforementioned Marchese Carcano chairs, their giddiness over opera, the description of multiple six course meals at Delmonico's, and the need to change into dinner clothes gave the entire book a snotty, metro-sexual feel. I'm generally okay with unlikeable protagonists and often get attached to even the most unsavory anti-hero. Here, they were just written too snarky for me to care about.

Save yourself the time and effort, and just watch the January 22nd debut of The Alienist on TNT. The costumes and late 1800s backgrounds guarantee to be lush, and I'll bet the screenwriters do a good job with the rewrite.

And for God's sake, keep a look out for those ridiculous Italian chairs.

EDIT. The TNT series includes a subplot with the journalist who is now instead an illustrator (so we can see the reactions of those who view his sketches of the murdered?) tying to some secret marriage fantasy. The chairs haven't appeared just yet! Ha.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews906 followers
December 25, 2017
Done!!! I LOOVED this Sherlock Holmesian historical fiction thriller set in 1890's New York city. I wanted to get it read before the TNT series starts January 22 - it looks so good! I hope they don't ruin it by making too many changes to the story or the characters. Keeping my fingers crossed - the cast is great!

If, like me, you haven't read this 1994 classic yet, I highly recommend it! Great plot, characters and a wonderful glimpse of Gilded Age New York.

Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,130 followers
March 21, 2019
This book has so many elements that my twisted little brain loves: Gilded Age New York, historical elements intertwined with the fictional aspects, a serial killer... While this story takes place in Edith Wharton’s New York, a sordid murder investigation takes us places her characters wouldn’t be caught dead in: the underground world of the “flesh trade” and the lunatics’ asylums! The mutilated body of a young “rent boy” is found on the construction site of the Williamsburg bridge, prompting police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to summon two old friends from Harvard to help crack the case: John Moore, a reporter, and the enigmatic Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a reputed alienist. With the help of a very ambitious secretary and two modern-thinking sergeant-detectives, they will race against the clock to catch the killer before he leaves more bodies behind – by figuring out why he does what he does. I've always had a fascination for criminal psychology, and “The Alienist” is set right at the time when forensic psychology and science really started taking shape. Add to that a nice layer of political, social and cultural tensions, the risky business of dealing with the criminal underworld and the well-timed revelation of the characters’ background and you get what I consider to be quite a treat.

While Dr. Kreizler doesn’t have Sherlock Holmes’ panache, I still loved him: a man devoted to expanding knowledge, doing right by people and catching bad guys in a no-nonsense, single-minded manner. The way he builds this image of a person capable of committing the horrible crimes he investigates, and fleshes out a detailed portrait of their history and motivation is a fascinating process, and wonderfully described to help the reader put the pieces together along with the narrator (yes the homage to the Holmes and Watson dynamic is obvious but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…). I also admired his compassion: the way he treats his patients, and the former patients now in his employ, made him wonderfully human, something many brilliant detective characters don’t really seem to be…

I am still not convinced that the character of Sara wasn’t added to this story simply as the token woman character: yes, she is smart, determined and gives the investigation a very solid lead with her perspective, but I guess I expected her to be even more active and groundbreaking…

I read a few reviews where the slow plot was commented on, and I was surprised because I actually found it really hard to put down. It was not a break-neck pace, but there was always something interesting happening at the turn of the page (maybe you have to love meticulously detailed puzzles to find that fun, I don’t know…), which mercifully balanced out the history lesson Carr sometimes felt necessary to pad his story with. While the writing is often riveting, it sometimes lapses into historical info-dumping, when the narrator introduces a historical character: the biographies could almost be Wikipedia articles, which is a bit grating. The use of foreshadowing, while occasionally cheesy, definitely accomplished its goal of making me go “dammit, I can’t stop reading now!” a few times.

Overall, a smart, fun, but imperfect historical murder mystery about the inherited cycle of violence with a Henry James backdrop. I’m curious about the sequel…
Profile Image for Jim.
562 reviews85 followers
May 17, 2020
Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is a psychologist. Or as they were known in 1896 New York City an "alienist”. The story is narrated by newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore and opens with the funeral of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. Roosevelt was a commissioner for the New York City police department in 1896. Roosevelt, Kreizler, and Moore were friends who met while attending Harvard University. When the badly mutilated body of a young boy is discovered on the Williamsburg Bridge, which was under construction, Roosevelt calls Kreizler and asks for his help in identifying the murderer. To create a psychological profile. Kreizler in turn calls his friend Moore. With Roosevelt's blessing a secret investigative team is formed.

The body found on the Williamsburg Bridge was that of a male prostitute and is just the first (or is it?). New York City in 1896 is not always pretty. There were mansions, opera houses, fancy restaurants such as Delmonico's, and millionaires such as J.P. Morgan. Then there were the tenements and the immigrants who lived in them, the gangsters and corrupt cops, whore houses, and children who were forced to work in them. New York City in 1896 could be filthy, violent, and dangerous.

In addition to Moore, Kreizler's investigative team include Roosevelt's secretary Sara Howard, who has dreams of becoming a detective and who carries a pistol and knows how to use it; and Detective Sergeants Marcus Isaacson and Lucius Isaacson, bickering brothers who are also talented incorruptible cops. A couple of Kreizler's former patients also assist. Cyrus who is black and acts as a bodyguard and assistant; and young Stevie, a carriage driver and messenger. Together they will create a profile of the murderer based on details of his crimes. They will use new and revolutionary techniques such as psychology and fingerprints. Their quest will take them into the twisted mind of a killer and his tortured past. Are such killers born that way? Or are they made that way?

This is at least the second time that I have read this novel and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. An interesting story set in a different era with historical figures. Makes you pause and think when someone talks about "the good old days".
Profile Image for Nick Pageant.
Author 6 books878 followers
December 13, 2017
I just watched the trailer for the series of this being put out by TNT. I thought I would post a bit of a review to try and bring some attention to the book while everyone still has time to read it.

This book is fantastic! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an extremely slow reader, but not with this. I burned through it each time I read it (I think I'm up to three.) The murders are gruesome, the characters are delightful, and, most special of all, the sense of time and place are so well-drawn that you will see, smell, and taste Old New York from the ground up. Do yourself a favor and read this one... then watch the lovely Daniel Brühl solve some crimes in an Austrian accent.

Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,652 followers
March 25, 2018
This is a clever piece of historical fiction that tickled my interests in both psychology and crime stories.

I listened to this on audio, read by the incomparable George Guidall, and enjoyed the story of police detectives, a reporter and a psychologist (called an Alienist back then) trying to track down a serial killer who was targeting boy prostitutes. The prose isn't perfect — at times the author was guilty of info-dumping details of his historical research — but the story clips along at a good pace and it was a fun vacation read.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction or detective stories.

Favorite Quotes
"Scientists' minds may jump around like amorous toads, but they do seem to accept such behavior in one another."

"Change isn't something that most people enjoy, even if it's progressive change."

"[I]n our private moments we Americans are running just as fast and fearfully as we were then, running away from the darkness we know to lie behind so many apparently tranquil household doors, away from the nightmares that continue to be injected into children's skulls by people whom Nature tells them they should love and trust, running ever faster and in ever greater numbers toward those potions, powders, priests, and philosophies that promise to obliterate such fears and nightmares, and ask in return only slavish devotion."

"We are not obligated to provide everyone who comes to this country with a good life," Morgan went on. "We are obligated to provide them with a chance to attain that life, through discipline and hard work. That chance is more than they have anywhere else. That is why they keep coming."
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,458 reviews105 followers
February 20, 2018
What a ride through the dark under-belly of 19th century NYC and it is a disturbing one. Because the author sprinkles the story with real people, such as Teddy Roosevelt (when he was Police Commissioner), Lincoln Steffins, Jacob Riis, and J. Pierpont Morgan, I kept forgetting that this was fiction.

Crime was rife in the city and politics, especially in the police force, was probably at the height of corruption. Roosevelt is trying, with little success, to clean up the system. Then some particularly heinous crimes begin to occur which, if he can solve them will give him a leg up on the machine in his fight for reform. Male child prostitutes are being slaughtered (and that is an understatement) and a covert team is put together to investigate. Headed by alienist (psychiatrist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, it consists of a crime reporter who is the narrator, a young woman working for the police department, two honest and clever detective brothers, and various other reformed criminal associates of Dr. Kreizler. There are absolutely no physical clues and the Doctor begins to build a profile of the killer and the race is on to find him/her before any more murders can take place.

Well written and exciting, the book provides an inside look at the beginnings of forensic medicine and criminal profiling. My only complaint is the fact that the ending left me (and the protagonists) wanting to learn more about the murderer and his psychopathy. Otherwise, no complaints.
Profile Image for Katie.
267 reviews3,839 followers
March 29, 2020
This has been on my "to read" list for so long, and for the most part it lived up to my expectations. I can understand why this was so popular - it's rare historical fiction has the balance of being well-written, immerses you accurately in the era, but is also fast-paced and gripping. In that way, I can see why it appeals to so many different readers.
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
762 reviews345 followers
August 15, 2018
The Alienist was a very satisfying read and just exactly what I needed at the moment - a book to catch and keep my attention till the end. It's like Mindhunter on sniffing tobacco, so what's not to like!
OK, not really a sniffing tobacco, this was a stupid analogy, but you surely get my try on joking with a pinch of history...
This story of the hunt for the serial killer in the sinful city of New York in the sinful fin de siecle times of Gilded Age was well written with interesting and likable as well as not so likable, but very believable characters, describing the era when modern psychiatry was a toddler and forensics was a baby in a crib.
It was well done and even very fresh to my somewhat spoiled tastes and I can't believe it was actually written 23 years ago! Gosh, it even had a heroine who wasn't a damsel in distress kind of a woman, not even for a second. Something authors put nowadays in their novels (...and too often it looks like it's included because it sells well, not like something they actually believe in...), so that shouldn't probably surprise me at all, but hey - 20 f**king 3 years ago and not for a second it looked forced to me. Sarah Howard was no nonsense female protagonists all right. Chapeau bas for that!
Other protagonists, as dr. Laszlo Kreizler and our narrator, journalist John S. Moore, were a bit too Holmes and Watson-y, but gosh, this duo has been exploited so many times before and after and not necessary in better way, so I don't really mind, just pointing it out.
What really gave me an eye roll a couple of times is how our dr. Kreizler was portrayed as some super charismatic human being - is more telling, not showing to me.
But that's not really a serious issue. I still liked the novel and couldn't put it down - the way they worked on killer's profile, the way they had to start thinking as a killer would - that was interesting in a bit disturbing way. They tried to understand him, to get into his head, which they knew was going to be a scary place. And the fact that the author was using real cases as a source material - and I recognized it - made it even more creepy (the case of Albert Fish, for example, but don't get mistaken, it's not about him - just saying to make it clear, also don't expect it to be THAT gruesome, in case you just googled and it made you sick).

Plus minus everything I am giving it a solid 5 stars. It was fun to read and I'm a creepy person.

Of course I'm going to watch the series. I hope tv didn't ruin the material.
Profile Image for LD  Durham.
334 reviews34 followers
January 30, 2008
I really liked this book. At first, I was a bit disoriented, and really, I blame my own sloppy brain for that. It’s been over a decade that I actually read literature instead of trashy romance novels and/or Internet fan fiction. So when I first started this one, I was in awe of its many syllabic words. I nearly put it down, deciding that my brain had flared out like a star many years ago and had permanently rotted away. But, no! I was able to catch on and looked forward to reading more and more. On a sad note, it was the first piece of fiction I’ve read that did not have any sex in it. I know. I’m awful.

The story takes place in the early part of 1896 in New York City. The author was phenomenal in bringing the reader right into the city. I’ve never been to NYC and yet, this novel made it real for me. Not only that, but the small details were amazing. So not only did I feel as if I was in NYC, but I was in turn of the century NYC. Really impressive. The author peppered the text with side stories and information, from describing “the yellow brewery” as the upper crust society called the new and upstart Metropolitan Opera House, to the story of Dr. Holmes, the mass-murderer, and his unrepentant death. The author shows us Sing-Sing prison and little New Paltz. We also see the inner workings of the NYPD at the time and how it was trying to be reformed from a violent group of men who took pay from all the criminals into a working and solid force of crime solving and prevention.

Onto the plot:
The story is told in the first-person narrative by a New York Times journalist, John Moore. Moore is a good sort of man and knows his way around the city very well. He is friends with incredibly influential people, one of whom is the president of the Board of Commissioners of the NYPD, Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, the twenty-sixth president. Another friend of his is Dr. Lazlo Kreizler. Dr. Kreizler is one of the new and reviled psychiatrists, other wise known as Alienists (since people with mental disorders were thought to be alienated from society) and is the reason behind the title of the book.

The thick of the novel is a murder investigation. Someone is killing and mutilating young boys in the skin trade. But the really interesting part is that the investigation is done with amazing “new” technology such as finger printing, which was still not considered evidence for a courtroom, and handwriting analysis. And, of course, the entire investigation hinges on something that they didn’t even think to have a name for: Criminal Profiling. The entire story is engrossing as the killer is put together piece by piece, from a mysterious entity to a real live person with a history and motive. And all this before we ever get a glimpse of him.

But we don’t just learn of the killer’s life and tribulations, but also of the team of investigators: Moore and Kreizler, along with Sarah, one of the first women hired by the NYPD (as a secretary, but still one of the first) and of the Isaacson brothers, policemen who have trained in many new and untried fields. We also dabble in the lives of notable historical figures. I am sure I missed a few who made cameos as I read, but they all flow so seamlessly into and out of the story that you never think that the author is deliberately shoving them in there to give the story any heft or weight to it.

The only thing that I would complain about was that two pertinent facts of the killer were slow to jump to the investigators’ minds at two separate times. I was mentally screaming, “Wait, wait! Don’t you remember XXX? That’s why!” But for the story I could see why they conveniently forgot. It was a small annoyance compared to the rest of this very intricately weaved mystery.

All and all, this was an extremely well written tale and I can see why it’s one of those books everyone has or should read. I’m really glad I tried it out.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews924 followers
July 13, 2017

The Alienist by Caleb Carr is a clever combination of a historical, psychological and crime thriller novel. Embedded in a specific time and place, New York, 1896, focuses not only on solving gruesome crimes but also, perhaps even in the first place, finding a satisfactory answer what shaped the perpetrator and made him the man he became.

After a series of brutal killings of boys prostitutes a specific team is formed to capture and stop the murderer. Journalist John Moore, two Jewish investigators, feisty police secretary, Sara - the employment of women in the police was still in its infancy, and the most interesting of them, unorthodox Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. He is an alienist, today we would say a profiler and psychologist-criminologist, who strongly believes that no man is born a killer, only individual conditions make him that. Of course this view is not that popular and gives our character a lot of troubles.

The main task of our home-grown sleuths is to create killer’s portrait for Kreizler predicts the mutilations the corpses were subjected to are probably mirrored by the real situations from killer's own life. The novel abounds in some drastic, graphic descriptions but it does not feel like just an empty literary device aimed at shocking the reader.

If you are a fan of fast-paced crime stories - then stay rather away. The Alienist is a painstaking, even meticulous combining of puzzle elements, citing works from the field of psychology and psychiatry with a special bow to William James, treading dozens of paths and traces. But if you don’t mind a realistic image of a city at the turn of the century, a city full of social unrest and inequality, if you want to get acquainted with the beginnings of modern criminology, if you are not frightened by the tedious and inquisitive detective work - you should feel satisfied. Narration, unhurried and slightly archaic, full of detailed descriptions of places, buildings, even meals makes it easier to find yourself in that epoch.

Definitely New York from the epoch came out the more impressive and atmospheric - albeit it's not that dashy and glamorous city Edith Wharton or Henry James presented in their works, rather its dirty underbelly. New York in the novel is primarily a city of thieves and prostitutes, immigrants and the poor; districts of crowded and dirty slums, seedy brothels and dangerous alleyways, the places you could fire a shotgun in any direction without hitting an honest man. Finally, the city divided into specific areas of influence, ruled by gangsters, politicians or church hierarchs.

And to end this longish writing a few words about the protagonists. I think Carr took too little care of them; his main heroes feel too stereotypical at times, too sketchy drawn and secondary characters, from the other hand, seem to be too good to be true and the whole relationship between John Moore and dr Kreizler inevitably brings to mind Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Also some situations I found a bit far-fetched that just left me with but seriously ?

Despite the reservations The Alienist as a whole has provided me an interesting and gripping reading experience.

Profile Image for Julio Genao.
Author 9 books1,987 followers
March 24, 2014
for the NYC nerd: yes. for everyone else: no.

i liked reading about old new york more than i liked reading about any of the people in it.

historian win;

author fail.
Profile Image for Brian.
688 reviews334 followers
February 25, 2018
“Familiar conceptions die hard, and their passage can be damned disorienting.”

“The Alienist” is a book I read in a week, and enjoyed a lot while I was reading it. The prose is not especially great, and I do not necessarily think that it has much thematic depth. It is just a nice literary historical thriller, and I enjoyed that about it.
Some quibbles: it is decently written, although the dialogue can be stilted. I think this was deliberate on the author’s part to create the cadence and style of the late 19th century, and most of the time it worked. There is also lots of exposition and discussion of psychological motivation in this book. I actually liked that aspect, but I can see why many people don’t. The novel could have been 50 pages shorter and no worse for the wear.
However, “The Alienist” is one of the most atmospheric novels I have read in a long time. The New York City of the Gilded Age comes alive in Caleb Carr’s excellent hands. I felt the grit, the extravagant wealth, and most especially the stink and squalor of the tenements. A sense of time and place is very key to the success of this text.
Just as successful is the relationships among the novel’s protagonists, a team brought together off the books to track down a serial killer whose crimes are inconvenient for the powers that be in NYC. I believed the relationships and interactions between them, and that helps develop the novel’s sense of fullness. Also fun is Mr. Carr’s interweaving of historical people and events into the narrative. “The Alienist” feels like it could be a true crime story, except it is completely made up!
As for the plot, it is one that will have the reader intrigued and disgusted (unflinchingly so) at times, and one that keeps propelling you thru the text.
I understand that there is a sequel to this novel. At some point I am sure I will pick it up.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,229 reviews1,141 followers
October 7, 2018
Prior to the twentieth century, people suffering from mental illness were thought to be "alienated" from their true nature. Experts in the study of mental pathologies were known as Alienist.

I first heard of this book last year when I heard it was becoming a tv show on TNT, I intended to read it then but just never got around to it. Earlier this year I watched the first episode of the show and found it visually stunning. So like any normal person I decided not to watch another episode until I had read the book.....Then I waited months to read the book.

The Alienist deals with very dark and heavy subject matters. Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and his crew are hunting down the killer of child prostitutes, in 1896 New York. I learned from this book and some online research that for much of the 19th & early 20th centuries child prostitution was perfectly legal and the most popular form of child prostitution featured little boys as young as 5 dressing up as girls. The majority of these kids were immigrants. This book is extremely graphic and at times made me feel nauseated.

Caleb Carr did an outstanding job bringing Gilded Age New York to life. I love when Historical Fiction mixes fictional characters with real people. The Alienist features cameos from Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan to name just a few.

The Alienist is dark, edgy, smart, and gripping. I recommend it but its not for everyone.

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book you meant to read in 2017
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