November 19, 2002
The Alienist

Book of the Month Club (Book III)

After a long hiatus, your least favorite feature is back!

Okay, so on the long trip I went through three books, mostly on the plane and train. The best of the ones I read was The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. Now, this was apparently a New York Times bestseller, so you may have all heard of it before, but I hadn't so it gets a review here.

The book's essentially a turn of the century murder mystery. However, the century being turned is the 19th. It's set in 1896 and deals pretty well with the period. My personal favorite parts are the descriptions of the late 19th century forensic techniques think of it as CSI: The Victorian Period. It also deals significantly with the field of psychology in its infant stages, and it's here that the mystery aspect comes to the fore. Most of what you get are psychological tidbits rather than physical clues leading to the killer.

The book is pretty explicit. The murders that lead to the mystery are brutal, and they are described in livid detail. In my opinion it makes the book genuinely creepy, and gives it a decent feeling of dread throughout.

So a good book. If you like murder mysteries, it's great. If you like period dramas, it's alright. If you like neither, go somewhere else.

As an additional note, the sequel to The Alienist is called Angel of Darkness and I really can't recommend it very much. While The Alienist is a creepy murder mystery, Angel of Darkness reads more like the Scooby Gang in the 19th century. Poor characterization, far too convenient plot twists, and other weak shit make it nowhere near as good as the first book. Only read it if you're a big fan of the first one.

Posted by savidant at November 19, 2002 05:45 PM
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