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.
©1994 Caleb Carr (P)2012 Simon & Schuster Audio
Written by Caleb Carr, an unabridged audiobook version narrated by George Guidall and just over twenty hours of listening. Audible released this version in 2012, but the original first edition hardback goes back to 1994. So, this book has been around a while.
Early in this story, you’ll learn exactly what an alienist is: Mental deficiencies like a psychosis, or any psychologic problem, was defined by physicians of the 1890s to be alien thought. Not in the modern day context of little-grey-men-at-your-bedside, but a more literal definition of “foreign” or “unknown”. A synonym for alienist today would be psychologist or psychiatrist. You will find quite a bit of phsyco-babble on this issue in The Alienist.
This is an 1890s murder investigation in New York city. Theodore Roosevelt is the police commissioner at the time, which is true. The main protagonist, John Moore, is a journalist recruited by Roosevelt to assist with the investigation and put a stop to the mayhem.
The setting is urban New York - women wore bustles, carried reticules and muffs, men dressed in white-tie and tails to go to an opera. Travel was by horse drawn hansom cab, streetlamps were gas, side-streets and rivers were a convenient sewage dump. This is the Gilded Age of urban poverty to the extreme for many, wealth beyond measure for a few. An underworld of entertainment for men of all stations is prostitution, including of little boys. Young male prostitutes, children, are being slaughtered in a particularly grizzly manner. Thus is the murder mystery of The Alienist.
Why I liked The Alienist. Historical novels that weave real people into the tale are always fun and Roosevelt's persona is nicely conveyed by Carr. Furthermore, I’m a sucker for a gripping murder mystery, always on the hunt for a good who-done-it. The Alienist is also terrific historical fiction, a wonderful look at 1890s New York and the social mindset of the time. The Alienist is a true insight into the grunt work of police investigation, even in the 1890s. Hours and hours of guess work and analysis, pounding the pavement, dead ends, and maddening frustration are interspersed with brief moments of triumph or discovery. Add modern day tools such as computers, cell phones, DNA, and basic human tenacity is still a fundamental requirement for any success.
What I didn’t like. The writing, although enjoyable, is verbose, in my opinion - but, you may find it just right. Although nothing is repetitive, there are overly lengthy explanations of the obvious, at times.
Narration by Guidall is superb, as one should expect. Did a search for Guidall readings and this story popped up. Can’t say enough about George Guidall; if you haven’t listened to his narration, do yourself a favor and give him a go.
Mr. Carr can weave an amazing story. The fact that much of it is historically accurate is an added plus. Just wish he'd write Sarah's story. I'd buy it in a heart beat.
Having read this book when it first was published, I knew I was in for a good story and wasn't disappointed. The characters are just as interesting as the first time around and George Guidall is an excellent narrator, with great distinction of characters' voices. I've enjoyed his performance in several other books. Excellent murder/mayhem psychological thriller!
I love books!
First time author, Caleb Carr, set in 1896 New York City. The author is a native New Yorker so knew a good bit of NYC history and was able to relate it in an interesting way. The story itself was good as the team works on at the time evolving theories and techniques. Understanding mental illness, serial killers, evidence techniques were all in their infancy at this time but the team used as much of it as they could in trying to track down the killer. This is one of those books that was a bit longer but had great character development and a very involved story, the kind of story you can really dig your teeth into if you like these kinds of books. It was an enjoyable listen. And, you can't beat George Guidall as a narrator.
I've spent my entire life around the written word - writing it, editing it, teaching it. So, it's no wonder I also love to read it!
I really liked the opening of this novel -- the setting, the scenario, the narration were all nicely done and set an appropriately gloomy mood. But, then the story takes one detour after another and I couldn't wait until it was over.
But, getting to the end was the worst part...I hated the way the author completed his story. It was unsatisfying and even somewhat hokey.
This was one of my least favorite books.
There is nothing about this story that makes it different. I could not find anything really outstanding, it is mediocre.
Maybe it was the style it was written in, but I really just wanted the story to end.
No, wait for it on cable
Don't waste a credit on this
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