The Alienist by Caleb Carr

thealienist

 

Classical detection at its best…..   ****

To my chagrin, I have to admit I had never heard of Caleb Carr until I read reviews of his Surrender, New York. Several compared his newest novel to The Alienist, which prompted me to want to read it first.

The Alienest is a very interesting read. Written in 1994, it is set in 1896. This is important because it was easy to forget that I was not reading a book written in the 1890’s. That is how well-written this book is. I was transported back in time, not only from the descriptions, but also by Carr’s writing style.  This book is like reading one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the style and language are similar.

The story revolves around a team formed to discover who is killing young boys. In this sense, this is a classic detective story. The hook is that all the forensic science we are accustomed to in a novel, was just being discovered and was not as accepted as it is today.

The team assembled to solve the “whodunit”, consists of a psychiatrist, a journalist, two police detectives, and a female secretary from the police department. They’re all working off the books, reporting to the police commissioner, who happens to be Theodore Roosevelt.

Combining loosely historical facts, a Sherlock Holmes type of character, a little of Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme, a bit of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware, some of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter, and shades of Carolyne Keene’s Nancy Drew, Caleb Carr has written a great read.

The book was a page turner, not because of mystery or suspense, but because I wanted to follow the logic and actions of the characters. The climax and discovery of the killer were anti-climatic. The end seemed rushed compared to the depth of detail in the rest of the book.

This one gets four stars, and I now can read Surrender, New York with a more critical eye..

 

 

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