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Book Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Book Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Hi friends! I’m so excited about the book review I have for you today. If you’re like me, you’ve seen signs/ads for TNT’s new show, The Alienist.  And if you’re anything like me, you like to read the book before watching the movie/TV show. Caleb Carr and The Alienist really deliver, and I highly suggest picking up this book!

In New York City in 1896, a string of horrific murders have begun to take place. A young boy’s body is found mutilated and left on the Williamsburg Bridge. This young boy was not the first victim and, sadly, will not be the last. Crime reporter John Moore teams up with Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, an “alienist” or psychologist, along with several detectives from the police force, including one woman who is determined to be the first woman officer in the NYPD to try to solve these murders with never-before-used criminology methods. As the team begins to put together a psychological profile of the perpetrator–based on the details of the crimes and the clues left behind–the group begins to realize just how dangerous this man is and that the closer they come to solving this mystery, the more danger they are in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Although a longer story, the pacing was great, the characters were dynamic, and the murderers were gruesome without being over the top.

I really loved the psychology that is underlying the whole story.  Certainly, some of the theories they used are no longer considered sound science, but it was fascinating to see how the team used small clues to create an image/background of the killer. The criminology, including the discussion of the use of fingerprints (even though it was a science that had not yet been approved for courtroom use) was well done and added an extra layer to the crime solving.

While I enjoyed Moore and Dr. Kreizler, I personally think Sara stole the show. She was a feisty, independent women who not only held her own mentally but also physically when needed. Carr did a great job of creating a woman who was a forward thinking individual while still keeping her appropriate to the time period. I also enjoyed how the characters all interacted with one another and the quick banter and wit that the team developed throughout the book. The characters (including secondary characters like crime boss Paul Kelly) didn’t always do exactly what you thought they were going to do, and that made them much more dynamic and like actual people than some characters in books.

The murders were gruesome and well-described without being over the top or done simply for shock value. Each part of the murder was linked by the team to part of the personality profile of the killer, and it was fascinating how well Carr did bringing each minor detail of the murders full circle with the criminal profile.

Rating 5/ 5 – This book was a great historical mystery that not only had a unique serial killer, but also had dynamic characters, a great blend of action and witty dialogue, and a great look at how criminology and profiling (or the lack thereof) worked in the late 1890’s.  Do yourself a favor and pick up this book!

The series will premier on TNT on January 22. I’m really excited to watch!  The cast looks great, and I hope they do a good job adapting the book. I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about the show after I watch a few episodes!


Do you need to read the book a movie/show is based on before watching it?

I always try to, but in the end it doesn’t always work out.

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