The Alienist

The Alienist is a novel from 1994 (ISBN 0-553-57299-7), written by Caleb Carr. It takes place in New York City in 1896, and includes appearances by many famous figures of New York society in that era, including Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan.

Plot summary

It centers on the Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, of mixed Hungarian-German origin, and his companions who attempt to solve a case of serial murder of young boy prostitutes in 1896 New York City, using fingerprinting, pathology and a sort of pre-profiling -- all advanced methods for that time.

The Alienist was inspired by the works of Wilkie Collins. The sequel to this book is The Angel of Darkness.

Major themes

One of the major ongoing themes throughout the book is a discussion on the nature of evil, as well as what is, and isn't, insanity. Interestingly, the argument put forth by the titular alienist, Doctor Kreizler, is that the serial killer being hunted is not, in fact, insane. Rather that he's responding in a very sane way to impulses he is unable to control.

Other themes include the differences between rich and poor (especially the extremes between J. P. Morgan and the recently arrived immigrants in New York City), the efforts of Roosevelt to modernize the NYPD, the distrust of psychology, and a sort of 19th century culture war, being fought by those who feel the killer must be stopped, and those who feel that, since his targets are young boy prostitutes, he should be allowed to do as he pleases, as a warning to others not to get involved in the lifestyle.

Historical figures in the novel

External links

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "The Alienist" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia ( It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: