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The Alienist

The Alienist

Written by Caleb Carr

Narrated by Edward Herrmann


The Alienist

Written by Caleb Carr

Narrated by Edward Herrmann

ratings:
4/5 (89 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Released:
May 1, 1994
ISBN:
9780743520089
Format:
Audiobook

Description


A new breed of evil in Old New York

New York, 1986: Lower Manhattan's underworld is ruled by a new generation of cold-blooded criminals...Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt battles widespread corruption within the department's ranks...and a shockingly brutal murder sets off an investigation that could change crime-fighting forever.

In the middle of a wintry March night, New York Times reporter John Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a brilliant pioneer in the new and much-maligned discipline of psychology, the emerging study of society's "alienated" mentally ill. There they view the horribly mutilated body of a young boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan's infamous brothels. Supervised by Commissioner Roosevelt, the newsman and his "alienist" mentor embark on a revolutionary attempt to identify the killer by assembling his psychological profile -- a dangerous quest that 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.

As rich in vivid period ambience as Ragtime and Time and Again, and as relentlessly suspenseful as Red Dragon or The Silence of the Lambs, The Alienist will take you to a New York that no longer exists -- to confront an evil of timeless savagery.
Released:
May 1, 1994
ISBN:
9780743520089
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Caleb Carr is the critically acclaimed author of The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness, The Lessons of Terror, Killing Time, The Devil Soldier, The Italian Secretary, The Legend of Broken, and Surrender, New York. He has taught military history at Bard College, and worked extensively in film, television, and the theater. His military and political writings have appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals, among them The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in upstate New York.


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Reviews

What people think about The Alienist

4.1
89 ratings / 103 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Great Book. Carr really nails the lid on this story. The characters are so vivid that it's unnerving and uncomfortable. I believe that is a good thing. It is nice to see that a decent television adaptation is out. Carr literally has you believing that everyone of his characters are capable of committing these murders until the end. And even after that you close the book and still wonder if you read the right thing. Very graphic, but smart, literate and well layered.
  • (4/5)
    This is the story of an alienist (a doctor who delves into mental illness and deviant behavior), a newspaper man, a couple of detectives and a young police secretary who want to find the serial killer who is preying on young boys (and possibly young girls) in New York City in the early 20th century.
  • (4/5)
    Set in 1896 New York City, this psychological mystery involves a serial killer who kills and mutilates young boys who dress up as girls. The narrator of this book, John Moore, is a reporter for the New York Times and good friends with a psychologist, or as they were known at the time, alienist, Dr. Lazlo Kreizler. Kreizler is the one who figures out that there is a killer loose and contacts the police commissioner, Teddy Roosevelt, a man he met in college to see about setting up an independent and secretive investigative group that would include Moore and the determined Sara Howard, Teddy's secretary, Lucius and Marcus Isaacson, two brothers who are detectives on the police force that can be trusted and who have knowledge of forensic sciences.Kreizler's servants, Cyrus, a large black man who acts as bodyguard and whatever Kriezler needs and the youth Stevie, who drives his carriage and runs errands. Mary keeps the house, but Kreizler has kept her out of it for her safety. All three of them have committed murder and Kreizler has testified for them in court as to their sanity and recommended that they are remanded over to his care rather than go to an asylum.Kreizler believes that by studying the victims they can figure out who the killer is. The methods they use are ones that are used today like examining the possible childhood and its effects on the present. Some of them, though are not. Like taking a picture of the dead person's eye in the hope of catching a picture of the killer.The killer keeps them guessing for a while about how he gets to his victims since no one remembers them ever leaving their rooms. Also, why does he leave the bodies near water and what is the point of the mutilation that occurs after death?The narrator can be overly dramatic at times, but I really do like him. My favorite character though is Sara. She has to overcome so much to prove that she can be a part of the team, and honestly, she's smarter than Moore. She's also a crack shot, which Lucius and Marcus, the cops, are not. It was also pretty cool to see Teddy Roosevelt who is one of my favorite presidents as a character. This was a great book that did hold some surprises for me and was a bit of a mental exercise in a good way. It was like putting together an intriguing puzzle using pieces garnered by what were at the time new found ways. It's amazing to see how far we have come, but it's also amazing to see how advanced they were in their investigation, but not unrealistically so. This was truly a book worth reading.QuotesThe he bolted for the door, leaving me to apologize more fully for the abrupt departure?which,not surprisingly Wissler didn?t seem to mind at all. Scientists? minds may jump around like amorous toads, but they do seem to accept such behavior in one another.-Caleb Carr (The Alienist p 290)
  • (3/5)
    New York City, 1896. A serial killer is on the loose, gruesomely preying upon cross-dressing boy prostitutes. Police detectives are making no progress solving the ghastly crimes. In fact, someone with power or influence seems to be bent on silencing witnesses and thwarting any investigation. Reform-minded police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the same TR who later became president), determined to catch the killer, assembles an unconventional group of investigators headed by "alienist" Dr. Lazlo Kreizler. (In the 19th century, when psychology was in its infancy, the mentally ill were considered "alienated" from themselves and society, and the experts who treated them were known as "alienists.")
    Dr. Kreizler's team includes his former Harvard classmate, New York Times crime reporter John Moore; Moore's longtime friend, spitfire heiress-turned-NYPD-secretary Sara Hamilton; and two former mental patients who now work as his servants.
    To help identify the killer--who leaves behind very few clues, manages to spirit his victims out of locked rooms, and passes through the city unnoticed--the team attempts to develop a psychological profile of the type of person who would be capable of such horrendous deeds. The novelty of their approach does not win them any fans from the mental-health establishment or most NYPD detectives, and throughout the novel, they attempt to keep their involvement secret.

    Caleb Carr is a gifted writer with the ability to transport you to another time and place within pages. In addition, he knows how to write a good detective thriller. This one of the finest historical mysteries I've ever read.
  • (4/5)
    This was a really great fictional account of the early days of profiling serial killers. It is set shortly before the turn of the last century. Although a bit morbid in its descriptions, I came to know the killer pretty thoroughly before actually meeting him in the story. The way they deduced his character and motivations merely by observing his methods and victims was astonishing but believable. I look forward to reading more of Carr, especially the sequel to this book.
  • (4/5)
    I started this book a while ago and put it down because I was having a hard time getting into it. I finally picked it back after fellow Litsians and my friend who was also reading it raved about it. I'm so glad I picked it back up. Once they moved into their headquarters the story really started to pick up for me. The in depth story telling, history and well created characters really made this a really good book. I would definitely recommend it. I have heard the second one is even better than this one!
  • (3/5)
    The tome features an intriguing detective - or "alienist", but I found it dense and some parts would not sit well with the squeamish. Parts of it do capture the feel of New York City in 1896 well, and several historical characters make an appearance. The one that does the most is Theodore Roosevelt, who as police commissioner interacts with Dr. Laszlo Kreizler -the Alienist who is bent on using his insights into the human psyche to solve a series of brutal murders. The story is told by John Moore, a reporter friend of Dr. Kreizler who acts as a "Watson" to his "Holmes". The other prominent member of their team is Sara Howard, the first female employee of the Police Department - a woman who has ambitions of becoming a detective. I found her character a bit of a stretch as to what would be plausible in the time period, but of course that kind of character plays well to today's audiences. Modern day readers will also find some of the methodology used by the investigators interesting - such as their use of fingerprinting, which was a new technique not well accepted at the time. They are on the trail of a killer who has targeted young male prostitutes.
  • (4/5)
    The first chapters of this novel nearly ended further reading of this impressive novel. The story presents the new techniques used to track and locate serial killers. Laszlo Kreizler is a doctor of the mind in New York in 1896, and many people are not open to these new methods. The story involves many historic figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and J P Morgan. The conditions in the slums of New York are terrible. John Moore, the narrator, works for the New York Times, but has joined Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and other people in their quest to find the killer of young male prostitutes. Two Jewish brothers, Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, utilize fingerprinting and other methods of finding the killer. A lone woman, Theodore Roosevelt's secretary, Sara Howard, attempts to prove that women can work in the police department. The book starts slowly and like the locomotives in the story, begins to pick up speed and dash to the station.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 really. I enjoyed this novel, and will no doubt read the second in the series. The Victorian world of New York city is wonderfully imagined, and a mighty grim place it is too. Any idea one may have that murder, pornography, child abuse and general violence and mayhem are modern evils will have their illusions shattered. The characters are good, particularly the alienist himself, Dr. Kreizler, and the narrator, John Moore, a newspaper reporter. The lone female character is less satisfying and rather stereotypical, as a plucky early feminist determined to be a police officer. Not quite believable. The faults of the book lie in the dialogue's frequently droning pedantry. Every move of these 'detectives' is dissected and examined, much like the corpses that clutter so many autopsy tables. In spite of that, I found myself involved and intrigued and kept turning pages. If you feel like skipping some of the explanatory passages, go ahead. It won't affect your pleasure.
  • (4/5)
    Casually suggested by a friend, much darker than I expected. In listening to the abridged version, the story moved quickly. A great change of pace from my regular reading/listening material.
  • (4/5)
    A wonderful and interesting hybrid. Part classical mystery in the Holmesian sense and from the serial murders case and the investigation of the villain's warped state of mind the novel is also tapping into the Thomas Harris psychological thriller category. The historical details and characters feel correct even though they may not be exact. The supporting characters are distinct from the twin-police sergeants to the proto-feminist secretary, they all have an important role in catching the killer. It is a chilling and disturbing story.
  • (5/5)
    I adored this story. Fast-paced (I read over 320pgs in one morning/afternoon), keeping you on your toes the whole way through, all the characters completely lovable, and fabulous historical fic angles! I just loved it all.It's a Laszlo Kreizler series book, but our actual narrator is John Moore, a crime reporter. A somewhat unlikely group of folks comes together to combine their various knowledge sets of the city & its seedy underworld and psychology & investigation, in order to solve some nasty murders taking place around the city. With all the extensive high-tech forensics we practically take for granted these days, it was quite interesting to "experience" a story taking place over a century ago. Some of our most "basic" methods of modern day were just coming into play (or are now even completely out-dated) and were not accepted science yet. I also applaud Carr on his choice of victims, as even today there's much the same general reaction to that sort of thing, and his writing about it helps bring it into light more. Thoroughly enjoyable book, all-around.
  • (3/5)
    After a bit of a slow start, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It is a mystery set in the late 19th Century in New York. The author is a historian as well as a novelist, and although I do not really know enough to see any potential errors I felt that he painted a fascinating and accurate portrait of the city at the turn of the century. Some real historical figures are on hand in this tale, with Theodore Roosevelt as NYC police commissioner chief among them, but the narrator, Moore, and the alienist himself are fictional. Someone is murdering child prostitutes, but society and the establishment turn a blind eye to the fact of homosexuality and boy prostitutes, so no one is interested in catching the killer until Roosevelt brings in his unorthodox team of individuals, including police officers, a police secretary, a reporter, and the alienist of the title, to investigate. They use cutting edge methods, such as profiling and fingerprinting to search for the killer.It's a well-told story, although it got off to a rocky start with one of the early deductions that the team made and which didn't sit right with me. They surmise that the killer must be exceptionally tall since one of the young vitims was killed by a downward blow to the head. As soon as they came to this conclusion, I started saying, "what if the kid was sitting down? what if the killer was on a ledge or stair?" Their conclusive decision about this characteristic of the killer seemed flawed to me. But I let that go and nothing sprung out at me as being "off" for the rest of the book. Considering the detail and scope of the story, I guess that's a small issue, but it did stick with me.
  • (5/5)
    One of the best books I've ever read. There is the beginnings of forensic or psychological profiling and a serial killer who seems to kill at will with no reason and no pattern. Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is telling the tale through his friend and local journalist. I loved the history. The time period when Teddy Roosevelt was commissioner of police, the Teapot Dome issues, the fact that most police are corrupt and really don't care that there is a serial killer in their midst (not that they called them serial killers back then).
  • (4/5)
    What a fascinating book. Set in 1896 New York City within the scary realm of a stalker and serial killer, this tale drags you along a mystery within the history of psychology and police work. Great historical fiction.
  • (3/5)

    This was a book I became desperate to read on the strength of its reputation, but for some reason never quite bought until, not long after moving to the States, I bought it, its sequel The Angel of Darkness (1997) and Carr's subsequent skiffy novel Killing Time (2000) all in one frenzied blurt. I then read Killing Time first, because it's a lot shorter than the other too and because it's, well, skiffy, innit, and discovered it was a complete stinker. This put something of a damper for some years on my plans to read the other two.

    I'm glad I finally got over this, even though The Alienist is far from a perfect book.

    It's 1896, and New York City is being plagued by a murderer who's killing children, primarily young male prostitutes, and leaving their hideously mutilated bodies in venues that clearly have some significance to him. Theodore Roosevelt, then police commissioner of the city, calls in controversial psychologist Laszlo Kreizler, who in turn deputes his old school John Schuyler Moore, now an investigative journalist with the New York Times. The team is soon expanded to include two Mutt'n'Jeff cops, the Isaacson brothers, as well as Roosevelt's secretary Sara Howard, who's determined to become the USA's first female cop. Between them, Kreizler and the Isaacsons effectively invent profiling and forensics, while also exploring areas of scientific detection that the NYPD -- still reeling under the effects of the purging Roosevelt had introduced in an attempt to rid it of its extraordinary corruption -- regarded at the time as purest gobbledygook . . . such as fingerprints. (In a section that excellently brings home to us the huge gulf that exists between our time and then in terms of scientific criminology, even the Isaacsons deem it worth trying to photograph the image of his killer that might still be retained on the back of a murder victim's eyeballs.) After perhaps rather too many plot twists and turns, the killer is eventually tracked down and confronted. Overall, this is a very satisfying novel, and The Angel of Darkness has moved closer to the top of my to-be-read list.

    However.

    While a triumph of the novel is the way Carr conveys the true misery undergone by most of those living in the hellhole that was late-19th-century NYC, one of the devices he uses, presumably in the belief that it was a means assisting him to that end, comes close to undermining his efforts. Quite frequently, almost every time the characters have to move from one part of the city to another, the progress of the narrative ploughs into quicksand as Carr devotes paragraphs to a seemingly obsessive description of the architectural landscape through which they're travelling. It's as if you were trying to hurry along with a companion who's always stopping to insist you admire the Doric columns on the left or learn a little bit about the history of the restaurant on the right. Interesting, I kept finding myself wanting to bellow at Carr, but NOT RIGHT NOW.

    Another running sore is that Carr has a few spelling maggots (to use a very old term), and his copyeditor hasn't picked them up. There's "superintendant", there's "repellant" (as adjective) and there's even "yolk" for "yoke". And there are a few instances of textual infelicities so obvious they probably turn up in Copyediting 101 manuals: "a possibility so unlikely as to be impossible", for example. (Just before you pounce, that comma is correctly placed for UK English, which is what I primarily use. Besides, this is a bleedin blog, innit, not something formal.) I do feel that, while Messrs Random House were planning their big megabux marketing rollout for this novel, they could have scattered some small change in the direction of a competent copyeditor/proofreader.

    Those are the nitpicks I had with the text, and cumulatively, although small individually, they actually took a significant toll on my enjoyment of the book. Luckily the rest was more than enough to balance out.
  • (4/5)
    Although not really a "page turner" of a mystery, this is a really well done book. The plot and story are more of a "whydoneit" than "whodoneit".

    I did find it hard to get through the first half if the book - mainly because there's lots of backstory and speculation vice "action". Additionally, there is an incredible amount of science - namely psychology. Nevertheless, even this is interesting given the setting - New York in the 1890's when Teddy Roosevelt was police commissioner.

    The action picks up in the last half of the book and I found that despite my initial misgivings, I would like to pick up the adventures of the stories investigators in the sequel.

    If you like historical fiction and mystery, you will like this book.
  • (3/5)
    Just too long and far too much psycho babble spoil a good book
  • (4/5)
    It was exciting and hard to put down. The characters were well thought off. I especially like the Isaacsons and our narrator Moore but I can't find Laszlo Kreiszler endearing. I didn't even feel sorry for him when Mary died. Over-all it was a good historical fiction book.However, I found it too long. It had a difficulty maintaining momentum and the ending is kind of disappointing.
  • (4/5)
    This psychological thriller has many references to factual events and people. We were disappointed in his treatment of the female character, though.
  • (4/5)
    Fascinating, enjoyed the mystery and characters...
  • (4/5)
    In 1896 in 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.

    This is a decent historical fiction work. Where there were a couple historically inaccurate derivatives within the novel, for the most part it is on point. The characters give light to a beginning in criminology that showed how many will still take to change even today. He author also tackles the other tensions of the time for stereotypes of women, poor, and the rich. Whereas this was a darker novel than I normally read, I still greatly enjoyed the smoothness to which the author creates this Jack the Ripper style mystery in determining who could leave behind very few clues, manage to take his victims out of locked rooms, and pass through the city unnoticed. Carr captures the egoism of a serial killer while heading the perspective from the doctors on the hunt. Getting both sides without having me endure the killers POV can be difficult for some authors, but Carr accomplishes it well.
  • (4/5)
    This was an interesting book. Not knowing what an Alienist was (a psychologist) I found the information in the book very interesting. Written about the late 1800's, the book is about this gruesome serial killer attacking young boys. Lazlo Kreizler is the Alienist. He is interested in solving the crime of the serial killer so he gets together a crew of investigators, John Moore a reporter for the Times, Sara a secretary for the police force, and the Isachason (sp) brothers who use new methods in investigations. I found the book to be wordy but very interesting. If your touchy about crimes against children, you may want to avoid this book.b overall I liked it. For the most part it kept my interest.
  • (4/5)
    An excellent combination of history, and mystery. Author is an expert in history and uses his skills to bring together well researched information about serial killers, the history of crime in New York City, and the development of crime detecting methods using the beginnings of psychology. And he does all this with a heart stopping mystery well crafted to keep you reading even when you have other things you should be doing. Like sleeping, perhaps.
  • (4/5)
    Historical fiction set in New York and basically like a Criminal Minds ?? Thought I would love it and really only liked it. It was good and written well, but just too long with too many characters to have to track.
  • (4/5)
    New York City - March 3, 1896. When New York Times police journalist John Schuyler Moore is dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by a summons from his long time friend and psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the last thing he expects to find himself doing is standing on the outer walkway of the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, staring at the mutilated body of a young boy. While at first blush this crime looks like nothing more than a one-time gruesome murder of a molly boy who worked in a disorderly house, it takes Kreizler to question that something more sinister is at work here. In a city where money talks, where the majority of the police force is on the take and crime and political corruption rules, Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt has his hands full trying to clean up a the police force he has oversight over. It becomes clear that if this matter is going to be investigated - to the annoyance of many powerful members in the city - an unofficial investigation team using new forensic methods of detection and psychological profiling, to try and find the killer will need to be set up. As the body counts starts to mount, the race is on to try and discover the killer's identity and find them before they kill again. Written from the point of view of Moore, this story has a journalistic quality to it. The writing style reminds me of Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, another really good crime story considering that one is non-fiction. The attention to detail in The Alienist is amazing, although it can make for sluggish reading if you are looking for a more action-packed crime story. I found the quote on the front cover of the copy I read a little misleading.... The Alienist is a good crime story but not quite "A high-spirited, charged-up and unfailing smart thriller." IMO. The good news on the action front is that the slow build the story goes through for the first two thirds of the book does start to pick up speed as you progress closer and closer to the ending. The story does a great job depicting the American Gilded Age and has a wonderful character cameo by J.P. Morgan. I only wish that we got to know the characters that comprised the investigative team in the detail that we learned about our killer. I never really grew to appreciate the characters. They just were not given the same attention the author gave to the forensic methods, the crimes, the setting and the time period. Overall, this one is a solid and well researched crime story that made for interesting reading. I just wish it had been a bit shorter in length - 512 pages seems a bit much for what the story conveys - and I wish it had more of an action/suspense build to it. This story would be fantastic adapted for film as the detail made it easy for me to visualize the story as I read it.Favorite Quote:"I'm not at all sure how much it will amount to, John, in the end," he said gloomily. "There are times when I feel that the job we have undertaken is not one that can be addressed at the metropolitan level alone. Corruption in this city is like the mythical beast, only instead of seven heads it springs a thousand for every one that is cut off. I don't know that this administration has the power to effect truly meaningful change."
  • (4/5)
    A bit slipshod opening and slow going. I actually started reading it this week after struggling with it for a few years.It reminded me of a travelogue and going to eateries where the "400 club" would dine together . I learned about train schedules and horse cabs- it is that type of book. It gags down the "events and restaurants" into youquite often. I guess I would call this novel cheesy.
  • (4/5)
    The most interesting part of this book was the time in which it took place. As a fan of CSI, I believe that science can catch any criminal who ever committed any crime--ever. With that in mind, it was very interesting to read a book taking place at the turn of the 20th century, a time when fingerprinting wasn't considered hard science, and the act of trying to 'think like the killer' was foriegn....this was a very refreshing and interesting book.

    A definite must read for anyone who likes killer-dramas!
  • (5/5)
    Set in NYC at the turn of the century, it is the beginning of profiling and forensics and serial killers. The story is lush and engaging. The characters lively. But, for me, once again, the setting made this book, for me, a true treasure. ?
  • (5/5)
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr.
    Sub-genre: Historical mystery
    5 Stars

    Synopsis:
    Before the modern day criminal profiler, there were "alienists" - psychologists interested in the workings of the criminal mind. In this book a crime reporter, John Schulyer Moore, is asked by his friend, Theodore Roosevelt in his days as the police commissioner of New York, to assist one of these alienists in the search for a serial killer butchering young children in the sex trade.

    Review:
    This is a well-researched take on life in New York at the turn of the 20th century. The characterization is excellent, especially that of Sara, Roosevelt's secretary who is determined to become the first female detective, and the alienist, Lazlo Kreizler who seeks to understand the origins of monstrous behaviors while at the same time fighting demons of his own. The books includes some fascinating details on the beginnings of forensic science and has a profound message about humanity and society. The language and descriptive passages can be quite challenging to get through but they are well worth it.
    Recommendation: An absolute must for lovers of mystery and thrillers as well as the history of New York.