The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The Alienist is a suspenseful murder mystery set in 1896 New York City while Theodore Roosevelt is serving as Police Commissioner.  Here an up and coming Criminal Psychologist (aka Alienist) leads a team made up of Roosevelt’s friends and colleagues in an attempt to identify and apprehend a serial killer preying on immigrant boy prostitutes.   In addition to the psychologist, there is a journalist (the narrator of the story), a set of brother detectives who are well ahead of their colleagues in the art of criminal science, and a young woman trying to break the “boy’s only club” of law enforcement.

Lazlo Kriezler, a psychologist, and John Moore, a crime reporter, are former Harvard classmates of Roosevelt.  They are joined by Sara Howard, a police secretary with aspirations of becoming the first female detective and the Isaacson brothers. This eclectic group of novice sleuths set out to define the psyche of the serial killer, a concept which will evolve into present day criminal profiling; previously theoretical notions only, they attempt to put into practice concepts that until then were only espoused in psychology journals and papers.  Some ideas prove fruitful; others --- like taking a photograph of a corpse’s eye to see if his last vision was imprinted on it --- are shown to be unreliable.

Caleb Carr writes a very descriptive story that takes the reader, layer by layer, into the workings of the mind of the serial killer.  I enjoyed the book and am eager to read Carr's next offering - The Angel of Darkness.