The Alienist by Caleb Carr

You may have seen the commercial for the TNT series The Alienist scheduled to begin January 22, I first saw the trailer back in October and was intrigued. At the time I was not aware that the series was based on a book and while chatting with my brother, Jeremiah, about the TV show he said he thought he had a book by the same name! Sure enough, he had picked up both The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness at a secondhand store and let me borrow them both. Thanks, Jerm!

The Alienist is Caleb Carr’s first book about Dr. Kreizler, an early psychologist (also known as ‘alienists’) working in NYC in the late 19th century. Dr. Kreizler has a hodge-podge team of people who work with him to investigate crimes in the city utilizing the latest in forensic and psychological methodologies to create a profile of the suspect, determine an identity, and thwart his/her nefarious plans. (Just wanted to use the word ‘nefarious’…so great, right?!)

In many ways this book felt like reading an episode of Law & Order (from 1895) with each character/detective contributing her/his particular expertise to help figure out ‘who done it,’ track down the ‘bad-guy,’ and then set a trap in order to catch the criminal in the act. Guessing this format appeals to people given that Law & Order has been running for 20+ years and there are days that I wonder if there are any episodes that I haven’t seen…George and I have binged several of the Law & Order series! Love it!  This book is similar to Criminal Intent as the characters deal with criminal motivations, personal background, and psychological pathologies in order to solve the mystery.

Two points about characters in the book and then I’ll wrap this blog up before I bore you to tears. 1.) Carr does a nice job of incorporating real-life historical figures into his novel which gives the book a feeling of historical fiction which I appreciate, as it’s one of my favorite genres. 2.) As I am reading the second book in the series I am realizing that Carr continues to develop his characters. Dr. Kreizler and each of his team members has ‘a history’ and Carr continually exposes those histories to the reader which makes my own relationship with the characters an evolution.

Warning: this is a long book, the hardback is 493 pages (the second book in the series, which I am reading now, is even longer)! However, the reading is not difficult and thankfully, the chapters are short so breaking it up into manageable pieces is pretty easy.

Book War 2018: One book down, and half-way through a second!