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The Alienist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler #1)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  74,914 ratings  ·  3,060 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 infa ...more
Paperback, 534 pages
Published 1995 by Sphere Books Limited (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen
This book was FIZZING which, according to my 19th Century Art of Manliness glossary, means excellent, top notch. Well, fizzing it was. Through most of this book, I had it rated at 5.0 stars as I was absolutely captivated by the writing, the characters and the plot and loved how they were all deftly tethered to a great depiction of late 19th Century everyday life.

I would describe this as a psychological thriller and detective mystery set in the 1890's and blending a Sherlock Holmes type investig
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Lain
I tend not to like historical fiction, but this one blew me away. I challenge any thriller-and-suspense lover to try this book and not get hooked by the end of the first chapter. Fabulous.
LdDurham
I really liked this book. At first, I was a bit disoriented, and really, I blame my own sloppy brain for that. It’s been over a decade that I actually read literature instead of trashy romance novels and/or Internet fan fiction. So when I first started this one, I was in awe of its many syllabic words. I nearly put it down, deciding that my brain had flared out like a star many years ago and had permanently rotted away. But, no! I was able to catch on and looked forward to reading more and more. ...more
Chris
I found The Alienist to be a fascinating and exciting read. This historical fiction takes place in New York City just before the turn of the century and revolves around the activities of one of the first forensic investigations in world history. To try and catch a serial killer targeting young boys, a team of unlikely allies are pulled together by none other than Theodore Roosevelt, then a NY City Police commissioner. The team quickly discover that to solve this case will require them to researc ...more
Kim

This is a book I've meant to read for a while. It was finally bumped up from its spot down the bottom of my TBR pile thanks to this month's group read for the Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group.

Set in New York City in 1896, the novel tells the story of a team set up to investigate a series of murders, mostly of young male prostitutes. The investigation team is the brainchild of Theodore Roosevelt, NYC Police Commissioner in his pre-White House days, who is dedicated to cleaning up corruption in t
...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
I found out after I finished the book that Caleb Carr started off by writing historical non-fiction and that he even first pitched this book as non-fiction, afraid that his editor and publisher wouldn't accept a work of fiction from a non-fiction writer.

I mention this because I feel that his background in non-fiction shows through in the writing style - including the descriptions of the city and places in the city itself which I felt were more textbook than evocative. (Granted, judging by the re
...more
julio
for the NYC nerd: yes. for everyone else: no.

i liked reading about old new york more than i liked reading about any of the people in it.

historian win;

author fail.
Jessica
Oct 12, 2007 Jessica rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone with different tastes
Bleagh.

I thought this book was gonna be soooooooo awesome, and I was just gonna love it sooooo much. Everyone loved this book, remember?? Plus it is about one of my favorite periods in American history, and parts of it take place in my beloved Bellevue Hospital (the old one that's a shelter now -- the best example ever of "transinsitutionalization")!

Alas, the harder they come, the harder they fall. Maybe I didn't stick it out long enough -- do I ever? -- but I just couldn't stand the writing sty
...more
Becky
I really had no idea what to expect as I started reading this book. This was one of those books that I read with a group, and wasn't sure if I'd like it or not. But after the first chapter or so, I found myself completely engrossed in this story and almost unable to put it down.

This was like a Sherlock Holmes story, only instead of Holmes solving the (usually single) crime based on the particular type of mud tracked in on the perpetrator's shoes that is only found in remote regions of Mongolia,
...more
Laura
Just arrived from Canada through BM.

Besides the historical facts about New York City by the end of 19th century, I liked the plot and the introduction of some important tools for an investigative work, like the fingerprint examination and the last impression in the iris of the eyes of corpses, which was proposed by Jules Verne. Of course, this last technique is a simple matter of conjecture.

It is interesting to see Theodore Roosevelt as a Police commissioner before he became the President of the
...more
Cathy DuPont
Although I would think that I would get confused reading three books at the same time, I didn't. (It wasn't intentional; one was absconded and I started another book and the third book was an audio I listen to in the car.)

So I've gotten behind in my reviews but thinking back on The Alienist when I was finishing the last quarter, I'm wondering just what made me think it was five stars? (I think I was impressed with the scenery, since I love the Victorian period in America.)

Yes, it was well-writt
...more
Kristel
A couple of pages before finishing The Alienist, I declared that it is the most complete mystery I have ever read. Months after finishing this book, I still don't think that was hyperbole. Using the milieu of New York City in the middle of the Gilded Age, historian-turned-novelist Caleb Carr pits the emerging phenomenon of the serial killer against the pioneers of what would become criminal profiling in this fascinating example of a historical thriller.

At the center of the story is Dr. Laszlo Kr
...more
Kira Fisher
i have been going through a historical mystery phase, and this book certainly fit that niche.
unfortunately, i also wanted a book that was well-written, and this did NOT fit the niche for that.
everyone seems to love it, so i am nervous ranting too much about it, but it just seemed so hokey. the characters are such an obvious, contrived band of lovable misfits. the dialog can be interesting, but it can also drag.
i read the follow-up, 'The Angel of Darkness,'and it was ll the bad of this one with e
...more
Emma
This was a fun historical fiction novel. I enjoyed learning about life in New York during the late 1800. If you have watched Gangs of New York you will love the references to the various gangs and activities of the Five Points area of New York. In addition, if you are a fan of crime drama, such as CSI, you will enjoy reading about the development and constroversy surronding many modern crime dectecting techniques. It is just a great suspense, mystery novel that is stylistically like many novels ...more
Tara Lynn
I personally label this story as one of my top picks for best historical crime (fiction) novel ever. Caleb Carr has an eye for detail and character building that really envelops you in the story.

It's also an interesting study of the culture of New York at the turn of the century, and a great look at the beginnings of a new scientific approach to criminal justice.

I was horribly disappointed to find out that Carr had only done one more novel involving the characters from the Alienist, and I reco
...more
Brad
Jan 01, 2012 Brad rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Amy
Recommended to Brad by: Chris Simkulet
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.

In a year where I read numerous works of "great" or "immortal" literature, Caleb Carr's The Alienist stands out as the most entertaining read by far. As is of
...more
Dalton Lynne
If I had to sum up The Alienist with one word it would be this: plodding. The description of the book on Goodreads calls it 'fast-paced'. False advertising right there! Fast-paced it most certainly was not. LOL

The book was a bit of a disappointment in various ways.

One, I didn't feel much of an emotional connection with the main characters. I don't know why ... whether it was the author's writing style, the time period, or what. But I just wasn't drawn in to their world or their personalities. I
...more
Lynai
Historical fiction is not really my cup of tea, (or coffee, if I have my way) although I can make some exceptions especially if the reviews of some “trusted” friends are really good. The few that have made the cut include Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Trilogy (highly recommended by IVCF friends) and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (my copy sent by a very good friend all the way from Davao City). With The Alienist, the initial hesitation I felt about the book were erased by the reviews of frien ...more
Lynn
Oct 20, 2008 Lynn rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in the history of pop psychology
This is a mystery novel set in 1896 New York. Although the protagonists are upper class, it explores the gritty underworld (organized crime, violent immigrant neighborhoods, cross-dressing boy whores) of New York in search of a serial killer of children. Some of the detailed descriptions of the city and the time period are pretty interesting and detailed enough that I think a fair amount of research was done.

An Alienist is what psychiatrists were often called at the time. One lead member of the
...more
Dubin
This is one of those books that everybody read during a six month period a few years back. So I just got around to it, and man, what a disappointment. I enjoy historical fiction. I think books like From Hell and Billy Bathgate and the like are a lot of fun and make me smarter as well.

The Alienist has a perfectly passable mystery, but it's full of barely sketched characters and the writing is just so pedestrian that I was never drawn in. It's written in the first person, so I found myself wonder
...more
Lela
This book haunted me for years. The honest realism of it was admirable even though disturbing. Our society had a ways to go in the understanding of what makes people kill. I suppose we still do. Really good writing.
Zulfiya
This book was one of those numerous reads when you like the book being fully aware of its weaknesses. I read this book in the aftermath of the discussion of Drood. I was advised to read the novel to see how good a historical mystery book could be by some readers who were not fully satisfied by Drood. Now having the reading experience of both those big novels under my belt I personally believe that Drood is a much better novel than The Alienist. It is all a matter of subjective interpretation, bu ...more
Rosana
After hearing so many great reviews, I was disappointed by this book. It gives the reader an overload on information on the architecture of New York in the late 1900’s, and on the theatrical scene of the time, which would be all right if as much care had been put on the characters themselves. The characters felt as if they were modern people transported back in time. As much as I appreciate the feminists undertones and struggles of Sara, the wanna-be-first-female-police-officer, respectable sing ...more
Bending The Bookshelf
The Alienist is absolutely an engrossing read, but not what I would call an easy one. For one, it’s a first-person narrative, which somehow demands a bit more from the reader, forcing us to fill in the blanks and interpret what the narrator can’t know. Also, it’s full of archaic language, terms, and behaviours that serve to solidly establish the reader in turn-of-the-century New York, but which require a few chapters worth of dedication before a comfortable flow is established. Lastly, it’s a ra ...more
Jasper Soloff
When first picking up this school assigned novel I must admit I had great feeling of apprehension. 512 pages of a school assigned novel wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. Though two chapters in I was completely hooked and all worries of length completely vanished. It is still a mystery to me how a book so long can feel so manageable. This powerful novel about a murder investigation not only provides drama and anticipation but also the complicated characters and friendships I always ...more
Amy
I took this book as my only reading for my summer abroad program in France.I loaned it to someone who bent the spine. I hate that. They bought me a new copy. I still have it. I loved this book. I've read it twice since then. It is gory and mysterious and makes me think of all the usual suspects: Sherlock Holmes, Murder in the Rue Morgue, Wilkie Collins...
I loved the characters and the setting of old New York City. I especially love the setting of the climax, the old reservoir where the NYPL now
...more
John Montagne
Carr is absolutely superb at capturing the era - to the point where it can easily be classed as historical fiction, and his pacing is perfect along with interesting characters... One of the aspects of the book that make it so wonderful is that it holds a subtle blur and fade technique amongst genres. It is considered a murder/mystery and there were times when I re-read a paragraph if I thought there was a clue, yet at other times I was hurriedly turning the pages as I do in a rousing adventure t ...more
William
As a lover of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs' New York City murder mysteries (sewer creatures, mole people, monsters in the Museum of Natural History, etc.), Caleb Carr's book offers a perfect register for unsolved crime in late-19th century Manhattan, with a tenor and humor that makes every word worth reading. Including Teddy Roosevelt as Police Commissioner and, not unlike the TV show 'Life on Mars,' some interesting openings for females on the force.

And as a Brooklynite, I keep hoping we
...more
Anthony Ryan
Riveting historical detective tale set in late 19th century New York. Dr Lazlo Kreizler, practitioner of the infant science of psychology known as Alienism, is called upon by one Theodore Roosevelt, then commissioner of Police to New York City, to hunt down a child killer with the aid of his disparate band of cohorts. Rich in period detail and authentic in its depiction of the prejudice and corruption of the times, this is really not to be missed for fans of the genre.
Steven Belanger
Sort of an odd time lately, mostly without focus. I've been reading six or seven books, and writing too many things at once--and not completing any reading or writing at all. My sleeping patterns have been all screwed up, and...blah blah blah. I'm tired of my own whining, but it is what it is.

That changed with The Alienist, a novel so well-written that I finished all 597 pages in just a few days, even waking up early to read it. I read it through my cluster-headache on Sunday; I read it through
...more
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Books 'N Booze Bo...: The Alienist Follow Up 1 3 Sep 20, 2014 01:05PM  
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The Filipino Group: [F2F Book Discussions] March 2014: The Alienist by Caleb Carr | Moderator: Maria 98 143 May 20, 2014 07:29PM  
To-Read Buddies: May 2014: The Alienist 1 5 Apr 20, 2014 04:47AM  
Feb. Book Choice? 1 30 Dec 07, 2013 10:58AM  
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Caleb Carr is an American novelist and military historian. The son of Lucien Carr, a former UPI editor and a key Beat generation figure, he was born in Manhattan and lived for much of his life on the Lower East Side. He attended Kenyon College and New York University, earning a B.A. in military and diplomatic history. He is a contributing editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History an ...more
More about Caleb Carr...
The Angel of Darkness (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #2) The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Killing Time The Angel of Darkness and The Alienist The Legend of Broken

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“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people.” 16 likes
“Imagine, [Kriezler] said, that you enter a large, somewhat crumbling hall that echoes with the sounds of people mumbling and talking repetitively to themselves. All around you these people fall into prostrate positions, some of them weeping. Where are you? Sara’s answer was immediate: in an asylum. Perhaps, Kreizler answered, but you could also be in a church. In the one place the behavior would be considered mad; in the other, not only sane, but as respectable as any human activity can be.” 9 likes
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