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The Alienist

(Dr. Laszlo Kreizler #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  162,319 ratings  ·  7,553 reviews
When The Alienist was first published in 1994, it was a major phenomenon, spending six months on the New York Times bestseller list, receiving critical acclaim, and selling millions of copies. This modern classic continues to be a touchstone of historical suspense fiction for readers everywhere.

The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore
Paperback, Reprint Edition, 498 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Random House (first published December 15th 1994)
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Roberta TNT is producing a mini-series of the novel for 2016; no cast yet, but should be announced soon so watch the internet. I think it will translate great…moreTNT is producing a mini-series of the novel for 2016; no cast yet, but should be announced soon so watch the internet. I think it will translate great to screen and a mini-series may be better than a movie as gives them more time to flesh out all of the characters. Should be grand!(less)
Joe Burleigh Mr. Carr had published some successful non-fiction works and his publisher didn't want him attempting a novel. He pitched the idea of the story as tru…moreMr. Carr had published some successful non-fiction works and his publisher didn't want him attempting a novel. He pitched the idea of the story as true but said that he wanted to publish it in novel form. The picture you see in the back of the book is a shot that he made to help sell his idea. The photo is actually a cut out of composer Edvard Grieg copied onto a picture of Roosevelt. With that fake picture and a real historical figure in Teddy Roosevelt, he was able to fool his agent and editor into believing it was a true story. When he admitted it was a fictional story, they took a chance, published it, and it became a best seller. (less)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
1,721 books — 4,172 voters
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Best Historical Fiction
6,638 books — 26,389 voters

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Paul Bryant
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don’t know about your shelves but my shelves of unread books have become clogged with novels I thought I wanted to read five or six years ago and now I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read them and since I’ve now read all the ones I could remember why I wanted to read them I’m left with this scurvy crew, and there they are, glaring at me and muttering hey, you, get with the program, read me. And some turn on the waterworks and cry out beseechingly ohhh please mister, I’ve been so pati ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
***New TV series based on the book is showing on TNT and launching January 22nd, 2018.***

”I caught a vague glimpse of human flesh glowing in the moonlight. We took a few steps closer, and then I made out plainly the figure of a naked young boy on his knees. His hands had been bound behind his back, causing his head to rest on the stone surface of the promenade, and his feet were similarly tied. A gag had been wrapped around his head, holding his painted mouth open at a painful angle. His face wa
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
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Update: I am so excited. I just found out there's going to be a Tv series after the novel. Here is the trailer and it looks amazing with a great cast. Can't wait.

I realized that I can usually feel a 5* book from the first 50 pages. There is something in the author’s voice that gets to me. The same thing happened with The Alienist. It just had me at hello.

The novel is historical fiction written by a non-fiction author. Although I could feel that background
"In this battle, there are many enemies."

And that's an understatement.......The darkly moving shadows seeking oblivion, nameless figures shapeshifting in back alleys and roof tops. The click of heels down rain-soaked streets leading to nowhere and to everywhere. Secrets until they are no longer.

New York City in 1896 is a mecca for the meaningful and the meaningless. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt has been faced with the dregs of society: thieves, murderers, brutalizers, and sexual devian
mark monday
Aug 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
I guess I just need more than a mammoth miniseries version of a steampunk-era CSI episode. I've never enjoyed that show - what little I've watched of it - because the minutia of forensic science and criminal psychology utterly bore me when they are not tied to interesting themes, characters with depth, or a rich atmosphere. the entirely insipid protagonist made me entirely frustrated. the pedestrian prose made me want to scream. the fact that the cover is the most evocative thing about a novel t ...more
Bobby Underwood
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Caleb Carr's novel of a serial killer on the loose in turn of the century New York, and the dangerous pursuit of him by Dr. Lazlo Kreizler and his friends is a truly wonderful read. This has so much period atmosphere the reader can almost hear the hoofbeats trotting over the cobblestone streets beneath gaslit street lamps. It is long and exciting, yet not long enough, because by the time you finish, you'll feel like many of these people are your friends, and want to spend more time with them.

Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lets-get-real, top, lod, i-said
Prior to the twentieth century, persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be “alienated”, not only from the rest of society but from their own true natures. Those experts who studied mental pathologies were therefore know as alienists.

At two a.m. on March 3rd, 1896 someone comes pounding on the door of John Moore’s grandmother’s house in New York City. Not drunk, nor particularly sober, when called from his bed, John is immediately whisked away by carriage, to the site of the sti
Matthew Quann
Five Questions to Help Decide if You Should Read Caleb Carr's The Alienist

1) Do you love a good thriller?

Because what you might find between the covers of this book is a story that is anything but your typical thriller. Though it contains many frights, twists, and tense moments, the pace is much different from your standard fare. Carr chooses to unfold the tale of the shocking murders of child prostitutes as a journey of almost-academic discovery led by the Sherlock-esque Laszlo Kreizler. Though
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it

4.5 stars

New York City in 1896 isn't the nicest place to live. Outside of the ritzy neighborhoods the apartment buildings are shabby, overcrowded, and smelly; the streets are dirty and dangerous.....

…..and whore houses of every kind are prolific and unregulated.

Moreover criminals operate freely and government agencies and police are largely corrupt. To add to the city's problems a serial killer is murdering and mutilating children, mostly young boy prostitutes who dress up as girls.

The murder
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Patricia Williams
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting, very thick book. Lots of history and lots of information about forensic psychology and ways to hunt for a serial killer. Lots of good characters including Theodore Roosevelt. It was a long read but I did enjoy it and wanted to read it before the TV series starts in the new year. I think this is a series so I will certainly want to read more. I do become very attached to the main characters. Won't give anything away about the storyline but by second half of book I was ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kobo
The television series is on "my list" for Netflix and like any reader, I must read the book first. Well, I am now a Dr. Laslo Kreizler fan or should I be more accurate and state that I am a big fan of the pairing between Lazlo and the narrator of the story, crime reporter, John Schyuler Moore. This 19th century mystery about a serial killer hunting down young boys is not for the faint hearted. But oh my goodness, it's incredibly hard to put aside! ...more
Dalton Lynne
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
LeAnne: GeezerMom
To paraphrase Jules from Pulp Fiction, "Say Marches Carcano chair one more time...." BAM!

Sorry. My tolerance for the repeated naming of the characters' fabulous Italian chairs, bought at auction, was shot by the fifth time the overinflated verbiage was used. I don't know, maybe the writer - a history buff - made this furniture up based on a famous murder weapon. A Carcano was what was used to kill JFK, if you didn't know. Anyway, I was ready to fire a gun into these ridiculous chairs myself.

Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is a psychologist. Or as they were known in 1896 New York City an "alienist”. The story is narrated by newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore and opens with the funeral of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. Roosevelt was a commissioner for the New York City police department in 1896. Roosevelt, Kreizler, and Moore were friends who met while attending Harvard University. When the badly mutilated body of a young boy is discovered on the Williamsburg Bridge ...more
This book has so many elements that my twisted little brain loves: Gilded Age New York, historical elements intertwined with the fictional aspects, a serial killer... While this story takes place in Edith Wharton’s New York, a sordid murder investigation takes us places her characters wouldn’t be caught dead in: the underground world of the “flesh trade” and the lunatics’ asylums! The mutilated body of a young “rent boy” is found on the construction site of the Williamsburg bridge, prompting pol ...more
Nick Pageant
I just watched the trailer for the series of this being put out by TNT. I thought I would post a bit of a review to try and bring some attention to the book while everyone still has time to read it.

This book is fantastic! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an extremely slow reader, but not with this. I burned through it each time I read it (I think I'm up to three.) The murders are gruesome, the characters are delightful, and, most special of all, the sense of time and place are so well-drawn t
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a clever piece of historical fiction that tickled my interests in both psychology and crime stories.

I listened to this on audio, read by the incomparable George Guidall, and enjoyed the story of police detectives, a reporter and a psychologist (called an Alienist back then) trying to track down a serial killer who was targeting boy prostitutes. The prose isn't perfect — at times the author was guilty of info-dumping details of his historical research — but the story clips along at a good
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2017
Done!!! I LOOVED this Sherlock Holmesian historical fiction thriller set in 1890's New York city. I wanted to get it read before the TNT series starts January 22 - it looks so good! I hope they don't ruin it by making too many changes to the story or the characters. Keeping my fingers crossed - the cast is great!

If, like me, you haven't read this 1994 classic yet, I highly recommend it! Great plot, characters and a wonderful glimpse of Gilded Age New York.


The Alienist by Caleb Carr is a clever combination of a historical, psychological and crime thriller novel. Embedded in a specific time and place, New York, 1896, focuses not only on solving gruesome crimes but also, perhaps even in the first place, finding a satisfactory answer what shaped the perpetrator and made him the man he became.

After a series of brutal killings of boys prostitutes a specific team is formed to capture and stop the murderer. Journalist John Moore, two Jewish investigator
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This has been on my "to read" list for so long, and for the most part it lived up to my expectations. I can understand why this was so popular - it's rare historical fiction has the balance of being well-written, immerses you accurately in the era, but is also fast-paced and gripping. In that way, I can see why it appeals to so many different readers. ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Familiar conceptions die hard, and their passage can be damned disorienting.”

“The Alienist” is a book I read in a week, and enjoyed a lot while I was reading it. The prose is not especially great, and I do not necessarily think that it has much thematic depth. It is just a nice literary historical thriller, and I enjoyed that about it.
Some quibbles: it is decently written, although the dialogue can be stilted. I think this was deliberate on the author’s part to create the cadence and style of t
LD  Durham
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What a ride through the dark under-belly of 19th century NYC and it is a disturbing one. Because the author sprinkles the story with real people, such as Teddy Roosevelt (when he was Police Commissioner), Lincoln Steffins, Jacob Riis, and J. Pierpont Morgan, I kept forgetting that this was fiction.

Crime was rife in the city and politics, especially in the police force, was probably at the height of corruption. Roosevelt is trying, with little success, to clean up the system. Then some particula
Caro the Helmet Lady
The Alienist was a very satisfying read and just exactly what I needed at the moment - a book to catch and keep my attention till the end. It's like Mindhunter on sniffing tobacco, so what's not to like!
OK, not really a sniffing tobacco, this was a stupid analogy, but you surely get my try on joking with a pinch of history...
This story of the hunt for the serial killer in the sinful city of New York in the sinful fin de siecle times of Gilded Age was well written with interesting and likable as
Julio Genao
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Prior to the twentieth century, people suffering from mental illness were thought to be "alienated" from their true nature. Experts in the study of mental pathologies were known as Alienist.

I first heard of this book last year when I heard it was becoming a tv show on TNT, I intended to read it then but just never got around to it. Earlier this year I watched the first episode of the show and found it visually stunning. So like any normal person I decided not to watch another episode until I ha
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this story very much! From the characters to the plot to the setting it was all very much to my liking!
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
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
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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

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Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (3 books)
  • The Angel of Darkness (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #2)
  • The Alienist at Armageddon (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #3)

Articles featuring this book

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
169 likes · 101 comments
“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people.” 65 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.” 33 likes
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