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The Alienist Paperback – 25 Oct 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Reprint edition (25 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812976142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812976144
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.7 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,125,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

" You can smell the fear in the air." --"The New York Times"
" Gripping, atmospheric, intelligent, and entertaining." --"USA Today"

"From the Paperback edition."

"You can smell the fear in the air." --"The New York Times"
"Gripping, atmospheric, intelligent, and entertaining." --"USA Today"

"From the Paperback edition."

"You can smell the fear in the air." --The New York Times

"Gripping, atmospheric, intelligent, and entertaining." --USA Today

From the Paperback edition.

"A first-rate tale of crime and punishment that will keep readers guessing until the final pages."--Entertainment Weekly

"Caleb Carr's rich period thriller takes us back to the moment in history when the modern idea of the serial killer became available to us . . . [and] tracks the efforts of a team of farsighted investigators working frantically to solve a string of hideous murders. . . . Absorbing . . . suspenseful . . . gratifying."--The Detroit News

"A high-spirited, charged-up and unfailingly smart thriller."--Los Angeles Times

"You can smell the fear in the air."--The New York Times

"Keeps readers turning pages well past their bedtime."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Engrossing."--Newsweek

"A ripsnorter of a plot . . . a fine dark ride."--The Arizona Daily Star

"[A] delicious premise . . . Its settings and characterizations are much more sophisticated than the run-of-the-mill thrillers that line the shelves in bookstores."--The Washington Post Book World

"The method of the hunt and the disparate team of hunters lift the tale beyond the level of a good thriller--way beyond. . . . A remarkable combination of historical novel and psychological thriller."--The Buffalo News

"Mesmerizing."--Detroit Free Press

"Remarkable . . . The reader is taken on a whirlwind tour of the Gilded Age metropolis, climbing up tenement stairs, scrambling across rooftops, and witnessing midnight autopsies. . . . A breathtaking, finely crafted mystery."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Gripping, atmospheric . . . intelligent and entertaining."--USA Today

"Harrowing, fascinating . . . will please fans of Ragtime and The Silence of the Lambs."--The Flint Journal

Book Description

The ground-breaking historical whodunnit, in which 1890s New York is as much a character as the investigators. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This was bought for me for Christmas a couple of years back. The giver knew I like thrillers and crime shows on TV and also knew I was an avid reader. I guess they made a reasonable assumption based on that. Ironically this kind of crime thriller is something I rarely read. But if I'm given a book I will at least poke my nose between the covers to see what's there. I'm glad I did.

It's an interesting premise. It's 1896 in New York City and the Police Commissioner (Teddy Roosevelt no less) needs to catch a killer who is terrorising young male prostitutes (and by young I mean child) when most of his force just want to ignore these deaths as unimportant. He calls in his friend Doctor Lazlo Kreizler to help. Kreizler is an Alienist (that is a psychiatrist) at a time when Psychology is a science just finding it's feet and much disliked by the powers that be. He also assigns a couple of officers who have knowledge of new (and not legally accepted at this time) techniques like fingerprinting.

So basically it's a psychologist profiler and a forensics team trying to catch a serial killer. Uninspiring stuff except for the setting which adds a twist. Kreizler is making this up as he goes along - and you really feel that. And he and his team have to work in secrecy because people don't trust 'alienists' or the new forensics. That twist and the realisation of the setting is enough to elevate the story above your average crime thriller. The late 19th century was a time in transition. Science was marching on at an accelerating rate, women were starting to maneuver for suffrage and other rights and similar. The world was changing and people don't like change. And the setting is so beautifully evoked in this novel that you feel that same sense of uncertainity.
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Format: Paperback
Apocryphally, Caleb Carr's publishers thought this was originally a factual historical book when they first received it, but then discovered it moved a little more quickly and (dare I say it) excitingly than a standard academic historical work.

I disagree with the reviewer that thinks it's too long. The beauty about this book is the manner in which it sucks you into the seedy underbelly of New York in the last decade of the nineteenth century, and the research and information we get as readers is startlingly comprehensive: criminology, alienism (nascent psycho-analysis and psychiatry) and detailed corruption. Theodore Roosevelt is name-checked and plays a significant role in the story.

For anyone keen to delve into the best that New York writing can offer (this was a NYT bestseller and sold millions) then I would recommend this unreservedly. It is not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am thriller, more of a totally believable and often surprising journey into the labyrinth of horrific crime that no-one - then, at least - wanted to believe was real. But it was.
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Format: Paperback
This is Caleb Carr's magnificent novel of a serial killer on the loose in turn of the century New York, and the dangerous pusuit of him by Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, his good friend John Moore, the way ahead of her time Sara Howard, law enforcement brothers Lucius and Marcus Isaacson, young street urchin Stevie, Kreizler's loyal servant Cyrus, and of course, police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.
Both The Alienist and it's sequel, The Angel of Darkness, are wonderful historical mysteries with gritty and exciting storylines set in flavorful turn of the century New York. Carr does this better than anyone I have ever read. You can smell the wet cobblestone streets after it rains and hear the clip clop of horses pulling carriages under gaslights. The Alienist is dripping with atmosphere and the characters, both fictional and historical, are fleshed out and real, so much so that by the time we are done with this one and go to read The Angel of Darkness we feel as though we are visiting old friends.
When Lazlo's old friend Theodore Roosevelt is confronted with several murders of young boy prostitutes, so gruesome that even the most seasoned and hardened of professionals can barely stomach being called to the murder scenes, he makes a decision that will change the face of police work forever. He 'unofficially' let's Kreizler form a small group to pursue the killer through psychological profiling. Police secratary Sara Howard and crime reporter and best friend John Moore, who knows the underbelly of New York all to well, are two of the main players in this teriffically exciting mystery.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Per the title. I have read a few of the reviews and it seems that a few readers have not appreciated the fact that this is a historical thriller (and in case you hadn't noticed it says so on the cover) Yet there are comments to the likes of "nothing that hasn't been said before" - Really? What other crime thriller gives a vivid a detail on the history of New York socially, Red Indians, Immigrants and so forth? Caleb Carr also gives a great insight into criminology and psychiatry of the antagonist that is unparalleled, all these elements alone make this a page turner.

O and I can never get over the comment "historically inaccurate"... one word: Fiction. There is no fiction that provides 100% accuracy historically. It is an oxymoron for a book to be both historically accurate and a fiction, if you don't like it then pick up a history textbook. A few of the other reviewers mentioned he overdoes it on the culinary aspect - that probably takes up no more than 5 pages of the entire book (it being 534 pages long ) which amounts to 1% - big deal.

Misses out on full marks for lack of character development and not enough twists and turns which should be a given in any crime novel. Still, if you're interested in a good lesson in history and psychiatry - then a must. 4/5.
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