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The Angel of Darkness

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Caleb Carr

Boyd Gaines skillfully delivers a wide range of voices and characterizations in narrating this potboiler (LJ 10/15/97), the sequel to Carr's The Alienist. The time is June 1897. The place is New York City. The story is narrated by 13-year-old, streetwise … see full wiki

Author: Caleb Carr
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Sphere
1 review about The Angel of Darkness

Rough and tumble late nineteenth century New York!

  • Aug 18, 2010
In "The Angel of Darkness", Caleb Carr returns his readers to the atmospheric, intriguing, rough and tumble world of late nineteenth century New York. The story is told through the eyes of Stevie Taggert, a former young thug rescued from a miserable life and almost certain early death as a street kid already up to his eyes in street crime and drugs by his guardian, Dr Laszlo Kreizler, the famous psychiatrist first introduced to us in "The Alienist".

During the politically troubled era preceding the onset of the Spanish-American War, the wife of a Spanish diplomat, whose baby has been kidnapped, frantically appeals to Sara Howard, a private detective and proud feminist who specializes in helping troubled women, for help to rescue the child before it is murdered. Sara in turn appeals to her friend, Dr Kreizler and their colleagues for their assistance in this most puzzling case - Stevie Taggert, Cyrus Montrose, Kreizler's faithful man-servant, Jonathan Moore, crime reporter for the New York Times, and Lucius and Marcus Isaacson, the brilliant yet comedic Jewish twin brothers hired as NYPD detectives by Teddy Roosevelt when he was chief of the force. When the kidnapper's identity is discovered relatively early, the tale changes from a whodunit into that more modern complicated breed of thriller that explores the "why" of the crime!

As the story is told completely through Stevie's eyes, the reader is treated to a wonderfully smooth, linear narration that is both complete and straightforward to follow from the plotting point of view. But that simple statement belies the scope and depth of this wonderful story that includes discussions of the birth of modern feminism, the ravages of cocaine and drug addiction, the growing use of modern crime-fighting tools - forensics, psychological profiling, fingerprinting, ballistics, microscopic matching of hair and fiber samples - and the psychology of that most puzzling and disturbing of criminals, the female serial killer!

For good measure, Carr also treats his readers to appearances of real-life historical figures that are substantially more than tossed off cameos - Theodore Roosevelt as pro tem head of the US Navy prior to his election as president leads a group of feisty sailors in a brawl against a brutal street gang; Clarence Darrow is observed in a thrilling courtroom drama establishing his reputation as one of the most brilliant defense lawyers that the US has ever seen and Elizabeth Cady Stanton whose early musings formed a substantial part of the basis of modern feminism is called upon as a critical witness for the defense.

Four stars and two thumbs up. Lovers of historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy "The Angel of Darkness" and cross their fingers that Carr will deliver on the rumour that there are more "alienist" novels in the works to be narrated by some of the other members of the team.

Paul Weiss

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August 19, 2010
Like you, Paul, I hope Carr writes some more in this series. The first two, as you say, are terrific. Outstanding review.
August 19, 2010
Thanks, Linda. I'm thinking that we've got an awful lot of taste in common in our reading.
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