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The Alienist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  102,213 Ratings  ·  4,155 Reviews
The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times crime 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' ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published March 15th 1994 by Random House (NY)
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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…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)

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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
Paul Bryant
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
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
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, lod, i-said, lets-get-real
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 still
mark monday
Aug 03, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
LD  Durham
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
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
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Crystal Craig
Another reader on Goodreads referred to Caleb Carr's, The Alienist as being "historically interesting." Definitely. Another commented saying, "novels like The Alienist seem to be a dying breed." I couldn't agree more. These days, I don't read the number of crime novels I once did, but every so often, I feel the inclination to indulge—you know feed the brain a little, solve a puzzle. Do you know how hard it is to find a well-written, old-fashioned style police procedurals that haven't been hung o ...more
Nov 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction

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
Oct 12, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone with different tastes

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
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
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
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
Fred Shaw
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Caleb Carr's first novel is a story about the early uses of forensic psychiatry to help apprehend a killer. In 1896, Teddy Roosevelt is introduced as Commissioner and change agent in the NYC police dept, and builds an unusual team to find a serial killer. Carr's 2 main characters, both from abusive families, one develops into a serial killer, the other a student of Forensic Psychology who goes after the murderer. The book is engrossing and a very interesting treatise on using crime scene clues t ...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
Kira Fisher
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireadyou
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
One of THE best books I've listened to/read to date! It came highly recommended by several of my trusted book friends and one of my favorite authors and lived up to every single expectation and I had for it and then some. Set in New York, the easiest way to describe this book is 'CSI meets Criminal Minds circa 1896'. Absolutely INCREDIBLE in every way possible. The writing, the story, the narration ... PERFECTION, from start to finish! An absolute must read for lovers of psychological thrillers ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Becky by: OSGA - Laurel
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,
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
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
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 murderer goug
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. A fascinating look at New York life at the end of the 19th century. The meticulous historical details drew the reader into the setting and world and totally underpinned the plot of the story and the search for a serial killer.
We see the seedier underworld of New York, the slum dwellings, the roof top travelling, police corruption, crime bosses, missionaries.
It was believable the way the author explained the coming together of an investigation team, experimenting with employing women
I cannot continue to read this novel. It is brilliantly written. I love the historical references. The characters are fantastic.

The theory behind the psychological profiling of the serial killer had me drifting into thoughts of psychopaths, sociopaths, malevolent narcissists, or narcopaths I have known. None took human lives as far as I know, but they definitely snuffed out dreams and left deep scars. I now have a name for the psychopathology of this crazymaking and injurious behaviour, but it
ⓐⓥⓡⓔⓔ ☞ The Bookish Blonde

This was one of the worst book hangovers I’ve EVER had and unfortunately I jumped right into my next book and I’m just not as enthusiastic after coming off of the high that is—“The Alienist”.

I found myself hauling butt at work to rush home so I could sneak in a few pages before time for housework, dinner, dishes, exercise, etc. I was distracted most of the day just desiring to go back into this story and hang out with this new cast of friends I’d made.

But see,
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mike (the Paladin)
Originally reviewed in 2009...correcting a couple of awkward sentences and typos.

Interesting book. I read it some years ago during a "read anything you can get your hands on period". This was one of the good ones.

John Moore tells the story from a first person point of view. The book opens as he is having dinner with the well known Alienist or Psychiatrist, Laszlo Kreizler. The novel is told as a reminiscence of past events. In their talk (along with other dinner guests) the discussion settles o
Jul 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (2 books)
  • The Angel of Darkness (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #2)
“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people.” 27 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.” 15 likes
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