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Alienist Paperback – Jan 12 1995

4.1 out of 5 stars 403 customer reviews

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Paperback, Jan 12 1995
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Little Brown P/B (Jan. 12 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751512958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751512953
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 403 customer reviews
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
An Alienist was an old term to describe a psychiatrist (a person who studies alienated people) and given that the start of the nineteen hundreds was to turn medical science on its head, this little tale takes us back to the origins of how and why it changed, by developing the process of psychiatry (or to be more precise behavioral science) with the analysis of a story about a Serial Killer roaming the rooftops of New York City, to murder and disfigure male child prostitutes that he has kidnapped for some strange reason, told through the eyes of New York Times journalist - John Moore, as he recalls this period of his life and which he wishes to commit to the page.
Moore is called to a crime scene by a friend of his, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the Alienist, to help him with an enquiry. They hook up with the police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt and Sara Howard, the first woman police officer in New York, to investigate the murders along with two 'new age' brother detectives with a scientific bent - Marcus and Lucius. The problem is that the city does not care about the murder of child prostitutes, new policing techniques and Dr. Kreizler has some unorthodox views about metal illness that do not get him much respect in the city. Using Kreizler's ideas about the psychology of the killer the team decides to "profile" the killer to see if they can track him down before he commits the next murder. The Alienist - for all intensive purposes - is about the complex process of developing that profile and this is where the strength of the book really is and is main reason why you will enjoy reading it.
Apart from that deductive element The Alienist is really a run-of-the-mill "hunt the serial killer" type clichéd material.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Alientist, by Caleb Carr, is one of the most unique novels you are likely to read. Although it could be termed a mystery, I think it works better as historical fiction. Anyone disappointed with the recent film Gangs of New York should look to this book as more interesting historical fictional set in 1800s New York. Unlike that movie, however, this book really conveys a sense of old time New York during the turn of the century. But the setting does not dominate the novel, rather it serves as a striking backdrop for the considerable story, using such real life characters as Theodore Roosevelt. J.P. Morgan and Anthony Comstock (whose ancestors also appear in the similarly themed Quicksilver, by Neal Stevenson) also make brief apperances. As with Quicksilver, the settings and characters compliment the plot, using it to examine philosophical and religious issues, a trait not commonly found in typical mysteries. The end result that the main thrust of the plot (i.e. the search for a serial killer) takes on greater meaning, in its attempt to show the difficulties faced by attempting to reconcile civilization's greater struggles with that of the (seemingly insignificant) individual.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The finest writing, to my mind, is that which uses one's mind. Caleb Carr fully engages the minds of his readers by expertly plumbing the minds of his characters, including a chillingly twisted mind, that of a serial killer. Mr Carr invites his readers to sort out details, to route out clues, to struggle along with the protagonist, New York Times writer John Moore, as he devises a method in which to trap a man who has killed, and who will kill again, before captured finally within the breathless climax. To capture this killer, John Moore utilises psychology, a science which in 1896, the year this novel transpires, was brand new, untried, and popularly maligned. To help him along in this is Laszlo Kreizler, the Alienist, a practitioner of psychology during a time when the mind remained the domain of myth, misunderstanding, and the property of a Higher Power. Battling corruption and ignorance, John Moore, under Kreizler's tutelage, rallies an investigation that plows new ground in crime fighting history. These men are splendid and admirably portrayed, however, I admired especially the female liason, if simply for the fact that Mr Carr included an intelligent, independent woman character within a late 19th-century setting, a time almost universally unkind toward women, wherein they were relegated to the lower ranks, and regrettably dismissed to forgettable subservient roles.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book moved a little slow for me through oh, say - the first half of the book. Mostly it's an introduction to the characters who are grouped together by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the President Roosevelt of Teddy Bear fame) to solve the murders of child hustlers in the late 1800's New York. But, when the action picks up - it does so with great alacrity! This is definitely a worth-while mystery-thriller to read - the history is well researched and you can nearly smell the stench of the streets of the 1890s.
Narrated by investigative journalist John Schuyler Moore, we get to participate in the investigation with Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the "alienist" as psychiatrists were known then, Miss Sarah Howard, Teddy Roosevelt's assistant, Stevie Taggart, Dr. Kreizler's servant, and two New York City police detective brothers.
The best part of this book is knowing that the characters have been established and you can move on to the next book, The Angel of Darkness, which, in my opinion, is a much better, faster- moving read.
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