Gina Rufo ’24, Staff Writer

The Alienist was one of the most compelling novels I have ever read. 

Set in New York City in 1886, the novel follows John Schuyler Moore, a reporter for the New York Times; his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, an “alienist”; Sara Howard, a secretary for the New York City Police Department; detectives and brothers Marcus and Lucius Isaacson; and even Theodore Roosevelt, the police commissioner. Although the book is quite dark, with its main plot surrounding the search for a serial killer, the cast of characters are interesting and charming enough to keep all readers engaged. While a killer is loose in the city, Dr. Kreizler and his team are hard at work investigating, searching for patterns, and trying to profile the criminal (a new concept of the time) to try and stop them.

“Alienist” was the original term for psychiatrists, and the book’s author, Caleb Carr, makes clear that he conducted substantial research on the subject of psychology in the context of gilded age New York City. Readers are granted a look into the interesting ways that police investigations were conducted in comparison to today. Dr. Kreizler’s unique views on the psychiatry of children are likewise contrasted with wide-held beliefs of the time, and the character is seemingly too intelligent in the subject for his own era. 

“Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian’s exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: venomous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.” (Goodreads)

I was completely hooked while reading this book, and I think you will be too! If you have any interest in crime, historical fiction, psychology, criminology, and gritty New York City, then I recommend this book and its sequel The Angel of Darkness to you! Also, check out The Alienist T.V. series on HBOMax, starring Daniel Brühl (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler) Luke Evans (John Schuyler Moore) and Dakota Fanning (Sara Howard).