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The Alienistby Caleb Carr
A mystery that takes place in New York City in the late 1800's; an investigation of a serial killer in the days when Jack the Ripper was the only known serial criminal and before forensics were what they are today, when skeptics laughed at the idea of fingerprinting for evidence. Carr explains in the introduction that the term alienist once referred to psychologists: the doctors who attend to those who have become "alienated" from themselves and from society. Psychologists, themselves, were considered a bit wack-o to want to spend hours in prison cells interviewing lunatics and studying the warped personalities of criminals. Anyway, I won't give it all away in this review. Let me just say it's a page turner!
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"An original that fits no established mystery niche, Carr's fictional debut could be the start of something big." Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"A knockout period mystery, infused with intelligence, vitality, and humor. This novel is a highly unorthodox variant of the Holmes-Watson theme and the best since Julian Symons's delightful A Three-Pipe Solution. It should entice new fans to the genre." Library Journal
"A first-rate tale of crime and punishment that will keep readers guessing until the final pages." Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
CALEB CARR was born in Manhattan and grew up on the Lower East Side, where he still lives.
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