The Alienist by Caleb Carr (’70). The Alienist is a complexly textured psychological crime novel set in New York at the end of the nineteenth century. Though I can’t watch Criminal Minds because of the gory crimes, I managed to face up to the carnage here because of the authenticity of the backdrop and the fascinating team, who virtually invent the technique of the psychological profile. Inspired by such true-life psychologists and psychiatrists as William James and Adolf Meyer, Lazlo Kreizler, the alienist; John Moore, the journalist and narrator; and several of Kreizler’s rehabilitated patients search for a killer with clues provided by the crimes themselves. Other historic personages (particularly Teddy Roosevelt, who at that time was the police commissioner) interact with the team. Kreizler lives on 17th Street, right on Stuyvesant Square (though a calèche and not a SUV is parked in front). I read this book when it first came out, and now rereading it, I can appreciate Caleb’s skill in the pacing: new clues appear just in time to make the reader stay up for yet another half hour. I was happy to see that in late January, TNT is presenting a series based on The Alienist.
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