In 1896, "New York Times" crime reporter, John Schuyler Moore, is urgently beckoned to the scene of a murder in the lower east side of New York. His friend Dr. Laslo Kreizler a psychologist (alienist) is there with their friend, police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt.
They see that the body has been mutilated and dressed as a woman. Roosevelt tells them that this is the third such crime and that they haven't been publicized because the victims were poor and no one cared.
With rampant corruption in the police department, Roosevelt sets up his own task force to investigate this crime and stop the killer. Kreizler and Moore are part of it as are Moore's friend, Sara Howard, an independently minded woman who works as a secretary for the police and two honest police officers, Lucus and Marcus Isaacson.
The descriptions of New York are a delight. The characters eat at Delmonico's Restaurant, where they might see Diamond Jim Brady or Lillian Russell, they go past the Brooklyn Bridge, Wanamaker's Department Store and Grace Church.
The police procedural is skillfully done and interesting. We learn of the new idea of fingerprints, and of profiling the criminal. The huge cast of characters has many of them taken from the pages of history.
Caleb Carr is from the area where the story unfolds and his creative vision and research are evident.
'The Alienist" is an authentic story that will transport the reader to a wonderful time in history. I enjoyed the book and felt as if I was experiencing and episode of Walter Cronkite's TV show of the '70s "You Are There."
Throughout the first half I was convinced this book would only rate three amazon stars (I was planning to review it even while reading it!), since it was ponderous and somewhat poky in pace . . . and stuffed full of minutiae from late 19th century New York in ostentatious demonstration of the author's obviously extensive research. But, as I hit the half-way point, the book picked up and I finally began to become absorbed in the tale and its characters. While initially just interesting constructs, … more