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The Alienist

A book by Caleb Carr

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Quite Respectable Historical Mystery

  • Nov 16, 2002
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, the team of investigators finally began to live and breathe for me as they started to close in on their murderer and the puzzle began to seem solvable. There was, indeed, something hokey about the characterizations, as another reviewer has noted here. Roosevelt, for instance was a bit too caricatured (but what else is new?) and the local gangster leader and the role he plays rather unbelievable, while the assembled team of investigators were somewhat mechanical in their parts. But the setting, which seemed at first to be just too much lifeless detail to convince, did finally start to work its magic on me (perhaps it was the general accumulation of all that detail which I had found so annoying at the start). Although the reasons for the disinterest of the New York police in the murders at the outset, due to social stigma, etc., did seem a bit shaky, and the ending was a bit contrived, I read through the second half of the book quite eagerly which certainly indicates that Mr. Carr had me precisely where he wanted me! In sum this book managed to build up a head of old fashioned steam, leaving me with a vivid impression of old New York while keeping me guessing till the end. And that's what any good mystery is supposed to be about, isn't it? -- SWM

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review by . October 30, 2011
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 …
About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #230
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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About this book


Set in 1896, Carr's novel about a serial killer lose in New York City was a 25-week PW bestseller.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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ISBN-10: 0553572997
ISBN-13: 978-0553572995
Author: Caleb Carr
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Bantam
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