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All booksThrillerThe Alienist
The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The Alienist

by Caleb Carr

Quick take

A near perfect specimen of a rare literary breed '“ a historical mystery told so well it could be mistaken for fact.

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Why I love it

Book of the Month

This modern classic is a near-perfect specimen of a rare literary breed—a historical mystery told so well it could be mistaken for fact. With a history book’s exactitudeThe Alienist features the unpolished, early years of two of the greatest and most contradictory characters in American History: Teddy Roosevelt and New York City. Police commissioner Teddy, together with an Alienist—an early word for a psychiatrist—attempt to hunt down a serial killer targeting 'boy' prostitutes. The hunt is a Holmesian fusion of fast-paced thriller and intellectual criminal investigation, which takes place in the raw and gruesome underbelly of New York in 1896. Enjoy.

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Member thoughts

All (1855)
All (1855)
Love (1051)
Like (651)
Dislike (153)
1934 ratings
  • 54% Love
  • 34% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • Sherman Oaks, CA

    I completely devoured this book! The perfect mix of history, true crime & psychology. The characters were so well developed & I'm still crying over some of them. Caleb Carr is BAE – yas to the sequel!

  • Jenkintown , PA

    A historical fiction that felt sooo real with a heavy dose of forensic psych, which I find fascinating. The character development was great too- I felt like they were old friends by the story’s end.


    Sherlock Holmes meets CSI... I thought this book was both inciteful and suspenseful. Loved that it had factual characters as well as being a historical fiction novel. Would definitely recommend it!

  • Brunswick, MD

    This is a terrifyingly dark and grimy NYC comparable to Jack-the-Ripper’s London, ripe with historical detail. Humor, gory detail, action, and deliciously flawwed characters stick with you for days.

  • Baton Rouge, LA

    The Alienist is a wonderfully written and researched historic thriller set in NYC of the 1890s, and more of a whydunit than a whodunit (very interesting choice!) I only hope the adaptation is as good!

  • Berkeley, CA

    This was my first foray into historical fiction, where real life personalities were woven into the narrative in such a fun & compelling way. It sparked a love for historical fiction in me that lasts.

  • Kildeer, IL

    The Alienist is one of the best books I have ever read. It is historical fiction set in 1890s NYC - the very early days of criminal profiling and psychology. The plot will devour you into another era.

  • Palm Springs, CA

    So much to love. The historical details of NYC alone were fantastic, but the author also delivered the same depth on psychology and criminal profiling history as well. I was gripped from start to end.

  • Hayden, AL

    One of the best books I’ve ever read! Seriously could NOT put this down! I fell in love with the characters, theme (first criminal/psychological profiling attempt!), and location & time in history!

  • Milwaukee, WI

    Instead of a 'who-dun-it' it was a 'why-they-dun-it'. I love this book. It was long but kept me entertained the whole way. I fell in love with the characters and was thrown into history in every page.

  • Staten Island, NY

    The forensic study & detective work really kept the book flowing. Enjoyed the view into NYC from that time period. I will read the sequels to this book and am awaiting the release of the T.V. series.

  • Portland, OR

    A terrific read about the beginnings of criminal psychology as a group of non-detectives hunt for a serial killer in 1900’s New York. The author creates a detailed historical context for this book.

  • Washington , DC

    Less of a mystery, more of an immersive read into the Golden Age, this psychological thriller takes a spin on a psychiatric Sherlock Holmes vs. 19th century Dahmer. Historical fiction at its finest.

  • Buffalo, NY

    A clever treatise of criminal profiling in its fetal stage. Reads like something written in 1896, so it's a bit dense. The characters felt accurate for the time period w/out alienating modern views.

  • Somerville, MA

    A classic for a reason. Telling the story of criminal profiling in a time when it wasn't broadly accepted or even understood - an interesting study of the human psyche - how it works, or fails to.

  • Tulsa, OK

    I am a huge fan of historical fiction and this one truly blew me away. I challenge any thriller-and-suspense lover to read this book and not be enthralled by the end of the first chapter. Fabulous!


    I absolutely LOVE this book! It's the best psychological thriller with history added in. It's a bit intense though with the murders, but the effort in which they deduce the killer is amazing work.

  • Durham, NC

    So glad BOTM produced this book! It's a long book, but I sped through it like lightening. I loved Carr's style, so much so that I immediately ordered a few of his other works after I finished this.

  • Portland, OR

    The knowledge and depth in which Caleb Carr writes is exhilarating. I was completely whisked away to 1896 New York. I am impressed with how the story came to life; characters leapt from the pages.

  • Columbus, OH

    I loved this book. It's long, but it never dragged on, nor did the suspense ever drop off. The characters are fantastic, and I enjoyed immersing myself in the grisly underbelly of late 1800's NYC.

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