The Alienist by Caleb Carr: A review

In celebration of the premiere of The Alienist on TNT last night, I thought I would tell you my thoughts on the book.

I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr to prepare myself for the TV show and because my mom highly suggested (and when your bookworm mom suggests something, you listen). I’ve mentioned before that I am a sucker for true crime. I love reading, listening to, and watching all things true crime. While The Alienist is a work of fiction, it felt like it drew a lot of inspiration from true crime and that’s what made me love it.

The Alienist tells the story of Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and his work to solve some of the first serial killings in Gilded Age New York City. Kreizler is an “alienist” or, what we now call, a psychologist. This book starts with Dr. Kreizler summoning his friend John Moore to view the mutilated body of a young boy. This moment sparks an investigation that causes uproar and danger to those around them.

My biggest issue with this story is how slow the pacing is at the beginning of the novel. Carr writes a lot of exposition and back story through the eyes of John Moore. It takes a little while to get into the novel and into the crime solving aspect of it, but once you do… wow, does this book really take off. Once I got to that point, I did not want to stop reading. I texted my mom so many times asking her if my theories were right (she did the right thing by not telling me anything until after I had finished) because I wanted to non-stop talk about this book. I even bored my boyfriend and talked to him about it! It was just that thought-provoking.

I loved the dynamic between all of the characters. Each character brought something important to the team and without them, the case couldn’t have been solved. There was always intrigue about each character as well. Carr, master of exposition, provided you with back stories to each character throughout the novel. He really created the sense that these could have been real people solving horrendous murders in the late 1800s and I really enjoyed that.

Carr also brought the murderer to life on the pages. You don’t meet the murderer until the very end, but they feel like a very real entity throughout the entire novel. Kreizler’s method of piecing the person together brought a sense to the reader (and the characters) that the person committing the murders was a very real person with very dangerous tendencies.

I found myself completely sucked into this book throughout the last half. It was entertaining, creepy, and a little chilling how realistic Carr made his murderer. I cannot wait to watch how TNT brings this book to life on screen. I’m sure it’ll be great though!

The Alienist got four out of five stars from me! I am definitely planning on reading the next book that features Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and his team.

If you’re interested in learning more about the show, click here.

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