The Alienist | Caleb Carr


I didn’t really give it much thought when i snagged this at a library sale a few months back. i thought the mysterious tone would provide inspiration for when i had to write a term paper, i was wrong there, but i wasn’t wrong in choosing to read it.

it’s about a group of people, helmed by a lazlo  who band together to catch a serial killer in new york, set in the 1890s. im terrible at describing things, so i wouldn’t be surprised if no one would choose to read it after hearing that synopsis. however, i’ll continue. the book is written in a way that could almost be paralleled to plato’s the allegory of the cave. at the end of the day it is a fictitious narrative, but how it’s written, and with the psychological theories and principles intertwined in it, is what made the book stand out to me. in the same way that the allegory of the cave held your hand whilst making a striking point, the alienist accomplishes the same thing in modern terms. at the time i was actually learning about william james, and various early psychologists, so all the references made sense to me.

the references were so well made, and the writing salient enough to leave me wondering, multiple times, if this book was based on real people. Carr mentions in the afterword that his publishers fell prey to this too, and that it is not based on real people (props to you Carr).

so then, why is psychology even mentioned to such an extent in the book? this is the method with which the characters are tasked with in order to corner the killer. it’s a slow build up, but very worth it. each chapter ends in a way that reminds me of a cliff hanger on a show, always enticing you to read the next chapter.

ironically enough, apparently this is being made into a tv series to be aired on TNT sometime in the future with Carr actually on the production team.

i think if you’re a psychology student, you’ll enjoy the book and maybe even try to figure out which school of psychology kreizler belongs in. i think if you’re just looking for your next scintillating read, you need look no further. the alienist brings in just the right amount of horror, suspense, history, and intellect that you’ll be flying through the book.


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