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.
John Schuyler Moore, a crime reporter for The New York Times, recalls an investigation he was involved with from 1896 in which he and group of others search for serial killer of young boy prostitutes. The killer mutilates these boys in a horrific fashion, yet because they are prostitutes and because of police corruption, there is a lack of real interest in investigating by the local authorities. Moore joins forces with Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist and others to make a psychological profile and find the killer .
Caleb Carr does a good job in recalling historical details of New York in the 1890's. Moore narrates the book and he is looking 23 years into the past. Using the limited resources of the time, the main characters painstakingly make a profile the type of person who would commit the killings. Forensic medicine and psychology were in its infancy and fingerprints were not completely believed to be of any importance. Carr does bring to life the historical details with sights and smells of 19th century New York. And this is the best aspect of the book. From filthy dark tenements of the poorer sections of Manhattan to the wonderful upscale multicourse meals of Delmonico's restaurant. We get a taste of the limited role of women and blacks at the time. What he fails to convey in this book is characters with any dimension to them. I really did not fall in love with any of the characters. Especially the character Moore who narrates. Little is known about him except he lives with his disapproving grandmother and writes for the New York Times. Carr gives us some mystery about Laszlo Kreizler's past to try to hold the reader's interest but it is not enough to make Kreizler really stand out and be the exceptional character of the title of the book. Carr seems to skim onto certain flaws in the characters but fails to go into enough depth to make the reader really care enough about them. All the other characters have smaller roles as support. What was really annoying about this book is that often the characters worked in pairs and when one had an epiphany and realized an important clue, they would grab the other character and say "we have to go now" without sharing any information with the other baffled character. Giving the book a made for TV feel. I know this was to add suspense but this gimmick was used too often in the book and got old fast.
And there were times in this book where it got just go bogged down in small, small details and just starts to plod. I mean I liked the profiling and I love historical mysteries but at times I needed it to pick up the pace a bit and move forward.
I have literally a few thousand audible books, I have Parkinson's, always an avid reader. I tend toward horror, paranormal, love Vampires .
No, it gave way too much detail, and took forever to reveal anything. In a word .. Boring !!
There are so many red herrings. The first Chapter was great. Mislead me to believe it was going to be more of a historical book.
George Guidall is the only reason I listened to the book at all. He's always great. Bless his heart, he tried to make it interesting.
I think when they discovered one of the main characters brothers. You find out a lot his family history, it gave depth to the overall story.
I played this book through my sleep, and when I awoke 6 hours later, it seemed as if it were in the same paragraph. I will mention I have listened to many Caleb Carr books, and enjoyed them all. He has a great writing style and I started this one expecting to enjoy this one as well.
I'm a singer, songwriter, musician, producer and music educator. I've spent the majority of my life wearing headphones . . .
First, the good news: I could listen to George Guidall read the phone book.
The bad news: The phone book would probably make a more interesting audiobook than "The Alienist." This work is seriously hampered by the dryness of it's prose and the dullness of its primary characters. Kreizler is no Sherlock Holmes. Not even close.
None of the dangers the main characters are exposed to in this story seem at all ominous or scary or even worrisome. None of the villains feel threatening and none of the heroes project any sense of heroism whatsoever -
And the book drones on and on, for twenty hours . . . like a history lesson written by a lackluster certified public accountant.
In the end, Guidall tries his best but even he can't save "The Alienist."
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