Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Alienist

The year is 1896 and John Schuyler Moore, a New York reporter
is summoned by his old Harvard friend Theodore Roosevelt, the police commissioner. Roosevelt is trying to change the pattern of corruption that is rampant throughout NYC and crime is at the top of his agenda. He enlists Moore and another old Harvard pal Dr. Lazlo Kreizler to solve a string of murders. Young boys who cross dress and offer services at disreputable brothels are found dead. These young boys are not only killed but severely mutilated and a pattern seems obvious only it is quite suspicious that the police are covering it up. Kreizler, Moore and police secretary Sara Howard along with two astute detectives secretly begin to study and unravel the clues to solve this mystery. Kreizler is an alienist, which at the time is what they call psychiatrists, those who treat the minds of mentally ill especially those with violent histories. This novel is long and it is slow and as unappealing as that may sound - it is a good solid story. It is interesting and extremely well written with many fantastic historical characters. In addition to the clues and history, the investigation of techniques, that are new at the time, fingerprints for instance, is quite interesting. Also fascinating are Kreizler’s theories of childhood abuse that leads to adult violence which we understand much better today than 100 years ago. I recommend this novel if you are a fan of mysteries and history. It led to an excellent book club discussion.

No comments:

Post a Comment