Patricia's Reviews > The Alienist

The Alienist by Caleb Carr
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's review
May 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery
Read in May, 2012

I started this book standing in line for a show at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village a few blocks from where the opening scene in the book takes place. I had purchased the book earlier in the day at the Barnes & Noble on Union Square on a recommendation from my son who had read a Goodreads review of the book. He knew I was keen on reading books about NYC as part of my visit to the big city. I had finished Serpico the night before and New York: The Novel a few weeks before that.

Both of these books, plus a week in NYC, enriched my read of The Alienist, but it was dynamite historical fiction with a thriller twist even if I had not been so engrossed in reading books set in the city. In an afterword to the 2nd edition, Caleb Carr refers to his book as "why done it." This is a perfect description of what takes this book far beyond a thriller about a gruesome serial killer. It is clear that in writing this book, Carr has deeply researched the early days of forensic psychology in the context of the politics and history of NYC circa 1890s. The result is an engaging and intellectually stimulating read.

Published in 1994, the novel definitely has staying power. I discovered it at exactly the right moment for me.

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