Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

I love love love love LOVED this book, so this is more of a gushy you-need-to-read-it kind of thing and not so much a review.  My coworker and friend recommended this one to me, because it contains some of my favorite things: serial killers, criminal profiling (back in the day when it was not accepted by the police), and a setting back in the past.  So far every book she has recommended to me I have loved. 

So, since I'm not in the mood to write my own plot summary, here is the one from Amazon:
"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."

The writing was great and I thought that Carr really captured NYC from that time period very well.  I loved Dr. Kreizler, as well as pretty much all of the main characters.  I thought the author did a great job putting Teddy Roosesvelt pre-presidency in the book too.  Sometimes when I read books that fictionalize real people it's hard for me to really imagine that person doing whatever they are doing in the book.  Teddy seemed to come alive though and I loved his parts in the book.

The murder investigation was really well written and kept me on the edge of my seat.  I LOVED of course the fact that they use criminal profiling to narrow down their suspects.  I am a huge fan of the TV show Criminal Minds and I think that's one reason why my coworker knew I would love this book.  The fact that this all takes place in a time when the police force was pretty corrupt and did not accept profiling as a way to solve crime made the book all the more intriguing.  The main characters who try to solve the murders have to work in secrecy, and I loved seeing how much further ahead they were than the rest of the police because of the profiling.

This is definitely a book I would read again and again.  It is perfect for a cold automn or winter evening.  I read this on my Nook originally but I'd eventually like to buy an actual physical copy of the book so that I can lend it to my friends and family because it is THAT GOOD!

Have you read The Alienist or any of Carr's other books?  Do you have any recommendations of other books that might be similar to it??  I am always on the hunt for books like this so please do share :)

Title: The Alienist
Author: Caleb Carr
Date of Publication: 1994
Number of Pages: 512
Genre: Fiction
Source: Personal ebook

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