Review of The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

This book was quite the read, and while not exactly perfect, lovers of the historical fiction, with a touch of crime fiction, need to add this to their shelves. As I am one of those genre-lovers, I am happy to give it a strong 4/5 Stars. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like.

Cons:
– As some people have already said in their reviews, the ending was a bit anticlimactic. It was very much in the style of the book, but there was a whole lot of buildup to an event that was not only over fairly quickly, but relatively uneventfully. Then the last paragraph itself was very “meh,” like Carr didn’t quite know how to wrap things up.
– On occasion, the narrator (Mr. John Moore) would end a chapter with these little gimmicky cliffhangers such as “We had no idea how dangerous it would be” or “further down the line we would understand just how wrong that was” etc. etc. All fine and dandy. Except the usage is inconsistent and tries to create tension where tension is not needed. It feels out of place and, while once or twice works to make the reader go “ooooh,” the third or fourth times it starts to be a bit of an eye-roller that ironically takes away from the immediacy.
– This con technically doesn’t apply to me, but I want to give fair warning to some other readers out there: if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, it can be a bit dry or dense with historical references and psychological terminology. The book is very much intended for those who already enjoy the genre, and therefore does not have universal appeal. And even though it is a “crime fiction,” do not anticipate dramatic firefights or intense chase scenes. So again, if you don’t have an understanding of the type of novel this is before you settle down to read it, you may be disappointed.

Pros:
-In tandem with the previous note about historical references and psychological jargon, this book is fantastic in its research. Carr clearly takes his nonfiction knowledge and seamlessly fuses it with a fascinating story with remarkable characters. Authenticity abounds, and the reader doesn’t stop believing for an instant that this is how these people were.
– Did you ever read Sherlock Holmes and think, “wow, nobody matters in this book except Holmes and even Watson, the narrator, feels entirely useless?” That is not the case with this book. While the relationship between Dr. Kreizler and John Moore is similar to Watson/Sherlock, Moore is far more fleshed out and carefully built, with complexity and actual purpose. Every character, no matter how minor, is just that way. Equal care and effort was put into each character, and it shows greatly.
– This is beautifully written and alive. There’s not much more I can say about that. The novel really pulls you in and every detail feels entirely real. Crime fiction, and especially historical fiction, can sometimes lack the artistry of writing, but that is far from the case here.

Would I Recommend?

 I definitely recommend this book; however, as stated above, it is a genre fiction book that relies on its readers being interested in the genre. If a slower crime fiction bothers you or historical fiction bores you, then you’ll almost certainly hate it. But if you have read the general synopsis, feel you understand what the book is about, and still want to read it, then do. Without hesitation. Now. Why are you still reading my review? Go read it!

Here is a link to the Amazon page: The Alienist

Has any one else read this book? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know, comment below!

 

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