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'The Alienist, written by Caleb Carr, is a 1994 novel which features the story of the search for a serial killer in New York City in 1896. The killer is targeting a very specific, marginalized segment of the population. An investigative team is brought together to find the killer. The members of team include: a 19th-century psychologist and by extension his household employees, a journalist who is also the narrator, two detectives from the NYPD and the first woman to be employed by the NYPD. The novel follows their investigation into the mind of a killer.
A second book by Carr, The Angel of Darkness (1997), follows the team as they search for another serial killer.
This novel provides examples of:
- Big Applesauce: Most of the novel takes place in New York City.
- Call Forward: At the end of the affair, Teddy Roosevelt considers getting involved in national politics? Why, how preposterous!
- Character Focus: The members of the investigative team split off either individually or in pairs to gather the information they need to find the killer.
- Darkest Hour: Dr. Kreitzler leaves the team after the shooting at his home. This almost derails the investigation.
- Did Not Do the Research: The characters travel to Sing Sing to meet and speak with Jesse Harding Pomeroy, a real-life serial killer...who spent his entire 40+-year term in prison in Massachusetts.
- Everybody Smokes / Smoking Is Cool: A given, during the time the story was set. Even eleven-year-old Stevie lights up every other page.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: At Delmonico's, no less.
- Harmful to Minors: Very harmful to some minors.
- The Heart: Mary Palmer. Oh oh oh, Mary Palmer.
- Historical Domain Characters: Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, for starters.
- Heroic BSOD: Kreizler suffers this after Mary dies.
- Ignored Expert: Dr. Laslow Kreitzler.
- Injun Country: This is a significant idea that runs throughout the entire story.
- Innocence Lost: For so many people in so many ways.
- Locked Room Mystery: One of the "girls" disappears out of a third-story room with no fire escape.
- Mr. Exposition: John Schuyler Moore
- Pater Familicide: Some patients that Kreitzler sees early in the investigation fit this profile.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A 19th-century psychologist, a drunk, the first woman to work for the NYPD, an 11-year-old ex-con, a gentle giant ex-con, two Jewish brothers who are cutting-edge detectives, and sometimes Theodore Roosevelt. Yup, ragtag.
- Rape as Backstory: Mary chained her father to his bed and burned him alive, because he'd been sexually molesting her since she was a very small child. Since she suffered from a disorder that kept her from being able to speak in coherent sentences, she couldn't tell anyone about it.
- Scary Black Man: Cyrus. Subverted in that he's really a gentle man by nature, even if he's a convicted murderer. (He killed a man in a jazz club who was beating a prostitute.)
- Serial Killer
- Street Urchin: Stevie "The Stevepipe" Taggart.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Mary
- Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Lots and lots.
- Turn in Your Badge: The Isaacsons take a "special assignment" leave of absence from the NYPD to work with the team.