Thursday, March 8, 2018

Book Review: The Alienist

Author: Caleb Carr
Title: The Alienist
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: Dec 14, 1994
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over.

Fast-paced and riveting, infused with historical detail, The Alienist conjures up Gilded Age New York, with its tenements and mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. It is an age in which questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and fatal consequences.

Review: I've been wanting to read this book since 1994 when it first came out, but since the tv show came out, I knew I had to finally read it. It was amazing!

I had to put aside the tv show as I read so I could appreciate it for what it really is, a fabulous historical mystery. It really shows the workings of CSI before there was a CSI.

Our group of investigators are Laszlo Kreizler, the Alienist, who is not always likable, but his methods are what propels the story forward, John Moore, a police reporter and Sara Howard, one of the first women to work for the NYPD, but not an officer, a secretary. Oh and the police commissioner is Theodore Roosevelt.

The are investigating the gruesome deaths of adolescent immigrant boys that are plying the sex trade. The book was published in 1994 and the subject matter really seems to hit home especially as the subject matter suits a lot of today's issues.

The secondary characters are very strong too. My particular favorite is the young boy, Stevie. These boys aren't children anymore. There lives are too hard for that. Stevie is one of Laszlo's hangers on. He has a few of them and they definitely add to the story.

The attention to detail is great. You really feel transported back in time while reading this. The character development is good, though not good enough for me at times. There were some things about John that were pointed out several times, but they didn't really play a huge part in the story otherwise, like his gambling and the woman that jilted him. The same could be said for Laszlo and Sara, though with Laszlo we do learn more about his past towards the end. More time was spent learning about some of the secondary characters and profiling other criminals then expanding on the characters that the story revolved around.

The murders are terribly gruesome and at times the pacing is quite slow. It really drags at some points, but in the last 100 or so pages that changes, when they finally find someone that they are quite sure is the killer.

The ending was what disappointed me and the book went on for quite some time after all was said and done. It added to the plodding pace that the book had overall. I wanted more for the ending especially after all the buildup, learning the killer's background and how each player in the story contributed something to his profiling.

Excellent book!


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