Not only is this a classic mystery, it is one of the best written mysteries I have ever read. The author uses misdirection and red herrings to the fulNot only is this a classic mystery, it is one of the best written mysteries I have ever read. The author uses misdirection and red herrings to the fullest to mislead the reader. Nothing is extraneous to the story, because every odd occurrence is explained in the end. The moors of Devonshire which are described beautifully make a chilling backdrop to this gothic story....more
I could not put this book down. A historical fiction thriller about a group of people trying to find a serial killer in New York City in 1896, The AliI could not put this book down. A historical fiction thriller about a group of people trying to find a serial killer in New York City in 1896, The Alienist does a wonderful job imagining how early detectives did their work while painting a graphic picture of life at that time. I got deep satisfaction following the various characters as they learned what they could from the crime scenes and did what Poirot would suggest: think about psychology. At that time, psychology was a new, mistrusted, and controversial field, and the psychologist of the title is on the cutting edge. He instructs his colleagues in theory and case histories, and together they build a picture of a man who would commit such crimes, intending to use it to find the killer. Carr doesn't waste a moment - everything that happens helps move the story forward. Evidence and psychology are used logically to solve the crime, making it a 19th century procedural with lots of instructional material provided along the way. And the political, economic, and social setting of the novel are all part of the story, which includes Theodore Roosevelt, who was a police commissioner at the time, and John Pierpont Morgan, one of the great financiers of that century. The only weakness in the book was the occasional slip that every historical novel I've ever read falls prey to - inclusion of details that do not serve the story. The most grievous was a short scene at Roosevelt's house in which every child who is old enough to has his or her moment in the spotlight being memorable. Otherwise, it mainly showed up as the occasional paragraph listing streets and buildings passed as characters traveled from one point in the city to another. By the end of the book, these particular passages didn't bother me as much because New York is an important part of the story and having a real sense of the city as it was then gives the novel a firm foundation. And overall, Carr had a good understanding of the heart of his story and kept the historical elements from overwhelming it. The other thing this book made me realize is why I find fiction so much more compelling than nonfiction - fiction provides the details I long for, and things make sense. Not long ago, I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which tells the story of the serial killer H. H. Holmes in tandem with the events surrounding the 1893 World's Fair. Despite the excellent research he did, Larson could not answer the questions I wanted answered. Why Holmes did the things he did is not really known, and that left me wanting more from the book. The Alienist completely scratched that itch. And having done his homework in order to create a believable killer, Carr gave Holmes his due. Holmes was in Philadelphia awaiting execution during the spring of 1986, and though he is only mentioned a few times, he is well used....more
Another page turner that I could not put down. Except for using the same characters and setting (and also being a good read), this story is really difAnother page turner that I could not put down. Except for using the same characters and setting (and also being a good read), this story is really different from its predecessor. Again, a psychologist and his detective friends go after a serial killer, but this time they know exactly who they are after much earlier in the game. Result: a much scarier story in which we are constantly aware of the murderer and afraid for our heroes at every turn. As in the first book, the mystery is slowly unraveled over time and leads to a dramatic confrontation with lots of danger and violence along the way. Another 19th-century procedural, complete with courtroom drama, and just as satisfying as the first book was to read. It's not however a perfect book. I got annoyed with the choice of narrator whose voice is uneven. Supposedly he grew up on the streets and got a good if informal education later, but there were plenty of times when paragraphs full of technical details and grammatically perfect first-person prose were followed by slangy and folksy language that was jarring. However, my desire to know what happens next overpowered my irritation. The level of intrusion of historical detail on the story was about the same as for The Alienist. Overall, engrossing and well worth reading....more
Mini-mysteries in each chapter, some clever, some really pushing it. Miss Marple is on stage for this one, and is her usual self, but I think I like CMini-mysteries in each chapter, some clever, some really pushing it. Miss Marple is on stage for this one, and is her usual self, but I think I like Christie in novel rather than short story form. She is a sparse writer by nature and her stories suffer when she goes shorter....more
Kate Summerscale tells the story of a murder in 1860 that might easily have inspired one of Agatha Christie's country manor murder mysteries. In fact,Kate Summerscale tells the story of a murder in 1860 that might easily have inspired one of Agatha Christie's country manor murder mysteries. In fact, Summerscale's presentation is designed to invoke just such a comparison, and the author herself points out the many connections between this real-life mystery and contemporary literature written by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, and others.
Mr. Whicher, the detective of the title, was one of the first detectives ever, part of the eight-man department opened at Scotland Yard in 1842. By the time of the murder in 1860, Whicher has a well-earned reputation for getting his man. The first section of the book, which is written like a classic English whodunit, covers the day leading up to and including the murder itself. A three-year-old boy disappears in the middle of the night and his body is found with his throat cut. A murder apparently without motive leads to suspicions about everyone in the household from the lowly nursemaid to the tyrannical father. Two weeks of stumbling around bring the local police no closer to the answer and in desperation they call in Scotland yard.
The book begins to stray from the classical fictional mystery format when we are introduced to Detective Jonathan Whicher. We follow him as he looks far and wide for information regarding the case. He is certain before long that he knows who killed the boy and when the arrest is made, the villagers go wild. The only thing more shocking to the Victorians than the violent death of a child is the thought that an adolescent might be responsible.
Due to bad handling of both the witnesses and the leads during the inquest, the case is not brought to trial and Whicher returns to London in defeat. He goes on with his life, and the investigations around the Road Hill murder go on without him. Public views sway with the wind, and solutions to the mystery are sent to Scotland Yard by citizens from all over the country. As in any good mystery where there is insufficient evidence to nail the culprit, the murderer is caught only because she confesses. While Whicher is vindicated, the evidence still doesn't quite add up. Summerscale points out the oddities, which were glossed over at the time, and, using documents that were discovered in the last century, proposes her own solution with credibility. I was less enthusiastic about this book by the time I reached the end. The familiar structure of the beginning had me thinking in terms of fiction instead of reality. Real life is full of dead and loose ends, and even with the author's theories to wrap up what she can, the book ends with questions unanswered, questions that will never be answered. And the title is overly dramatic. The story is far from shocking to a modern reader; our media inundate us with far too many horrors for this one to be of any surprise. All in all, it's a good book. It gives a taste of English life in the mid-1800s that includes the tension between the classes and vivid details of daily life. The exploration of public opinion and its effects on the case show that in many ways people haven't changed. In 1860, everyone had a theory who killed Saville Kent and facts didn't enter into it. The majority of the solutions were designed to make the unpopular responsible for the death. For anyone familiar with the works referred to, there is the added interest of seeing how the first mystery novels were shaped by the times in general and this case and this detective in particular.
The first Miss Marple, with many characters we get to know later (Colonel Melchett, Inspector Slack) in raw form. I found the solution complicated - lThe first Miss Marple, with many characters we get to know later (Colonel Melchett, Inspector Slack) in raw form. I found the solution complicated - lots of tricks and twists to make it work, but the thing that annoyed me most is that the murderer was someone I wanted to be innocent......more
One of my favorite Christie's, mainly because the idea is so clever. One of the times when the solution feels right - it makes sense of nonsensical thOne of my favorite Christie's, mainly because the idea is so clever. One of the times when the solution feels right - it makes sense of nonsensical things....more
Another solution from out of the blue, although I don't mind as much with this one, because I want everyone to be innocent. I do love the characters,Another solution from out of the blue, although I don't mind as much with this one, because I want everyone to be innocent. I do love the characters, their relationships, and their worries. And the victim is one of those people you love to hate....more
When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. But it's been so long since I read one that I decided to see what they are really like (rather than go on what IWhen I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. But it's been so long since I read one that I decided to see what they are really like (rather than go on what I remember them being like). I don't think I ever read this particular mystery before, but I did recognize lots of the details because they are same from book to book.
My impression: things happen FAST. Minimal descriptions, lots of lucky guessing on Nancy's part, and lots of stray "clues" that are sometimes really unlikely. I think when I was younger, my favorite part was solving the puzzle, but as an adult, the puzzle and its solution seem pretty improbable to start with.
I also played at Nancy Drew with my friends when I was a kid. We made up the story as we went and we raced all over, always off to somewhere new because of a clue we'd found. I see now that we were entirely in sync with the style of the books. Nancy and friends are all over the place all the time, following up on their leads and getting new information to chase after.
Now I'm tempted to get my hands on one of the titles I know I've read before and see how that goes, but I don't think I'm likely to go on a serious ND binge - I want realism in my mysteries, and these things are pure fantasy....more
Starting watching the TV series Bones, which made me want to get this book out again. I've already read it before, but it's interesting to read how scStarting watching the TV series Bones, which made me want to get this book out again. I've already read it before, but it's interesting to read how science can and can't solve murders. And for reasons I can't understand, I'm absolutely fascinated by forensics, although I don't think I could stomach the realities of the job if I tried...
This book is excellent for those with little scientific background. Everything technical is explained clearly in non-scientific terms....more
First of this series that I've read. I didn't like the characters very much and I was disappointed that the detective's expertise (herbs) didn't haveFirst of this series that I've read. I didn't like the characters very much and I was disappointed that the detective's expertise (herbs) didn't have anything to do with solving the crime....more
Loved this. Hillerman not only exposes an intriguing world, but almost everything that goes on ties in in some way with the mystery or his overall theLoved this. Hillerman not only exposes an intriguing world, but almost everything that goes on ties in in some way with the mystery or his overall theme. A part of the story that I thought he was wasting my time with turned out to be critical in the end. And both Chee and Leaphorn are going through things that tie in with everything else. Not just a great mystery; also a great novel....more