13 Aug 2020

Review - The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr

    Title: The Angel of Darkness

    Author: Caleb Carr


    WARNING: The synopsis contains possible spoilers for The Alienist by    Caleb Carr

It is June 1897. A year has passed since Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a pioneer in forensic psychiatry, tracked down the brutal serial killer John Beecham with the help of a team of trusted companions and a revolutionary application of the principles of his discipline. Kreizler and his friends--high-living crime reporter John Schuyler Moore; indomitable, derringer-toting Sara Howard; the brilliant (and bickering) detective brothers Marcus and Lucius Isaacson; powerful and compassionate Cyrus Montrose; and Stevie Taggert, the boy Kreizler saved from a life of street crime--have returned to their former pursuits and tried to forget the horror of the Beecham case. But when the distraught wife of a Spanish diplomat begs Sara's aid, the team reunites to help find her kidnapped infant daughter. It is a case fraught with danger, since Spain and the United States are on the verge of war. 

My Thoughts:

Given that the second season of The Alienist series has already come out on TNT and I'm eagerly anticipating it on Netflix because that's the place I'll be able to see it myself, I thought I'd read the book first to be up to date for the show.

For those of you who are not familiar with the duology soon to be trilogy – Caleb Carr's crime novels are set in New York at the end of the 19th century and follow an alienist (the term roughly referred to psychologists at the time) and his group of friends as they track down serial killers. In the first book they are after a ruthless man who murders child prostitutes with extreme brutality while in The Angel of Darkness they set out to catch a woman whose victims are mostly babies.

The main difference between the first and the second Alienist book is that The Angel of Darkness is narrated by young Stevie Taggert, Dr. Kreizler's ward instead of John Moore, Kreizler's journalist friend. I enjoyed John's storytelling, but Stevie's recollections are positively hilarious at times and, taking into consideration how dark the story is on the whole, I appreciated the fresh, youthful humour that somehow eased the digestion of the tougher parts of the novel for me.

I found it refreshing that this time the killer was a woman and so Sara's insight into the female mind became invaluable in the case. By now she's opened her own detective agency and it is so nice she gets recognition and a chance to act on her ambitions. I absolutely adored how Laszlo and Sara's relationship was raised to another level (not romantic, or was it? I like that I can't tell), how he treated her like an absolute equal intellectually and otherwise (not that he didn't in the Alienist, but here their mutual trust and respect deepened even more).

As for the plot, the murderess's identity is revealed pretty fast but the team finds it hard to get a grip on her and so they have to work hard to build up a case from scraps of evidences. They find a couple of allies during their investigation, like the talkative Mr. Picton, John's old prosecutor friend and Kat, Stevie's sweetheart who, although a bit troublesome, proves to be helpful in the end.

I confess I liked AOD more than The Alienist for many reasons, one of them being that it deals less with New York's political mechanisms of the time and more with the killer and the female psyche. Since I'm not extremely interested in politics in general the parts in The Alienist where it was detailed who held what kind of power over whom bored me quite a bit even if on the whole the political intricacies had a great influence on the plot. I felt AOD was more character and case-centered and had less 'background noise' in it, which was more to my liking.

Judging by the promos I've seen the tv show won't be very faithful to the book in its second season, but I won't mind that if they've come up with an original plot that doesn't mess much with my favourite team. 

The books I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, they are pure fun for crime and historical fiction lovers.

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