Tag Archives: Caleb Carr

TSS: Currently Reading Fowler, Springer, Carr and Greene

I’m in the midst of a hectic weekend of deadlines and such, but thanks to a little experiment I did involving changing my beliefs about time, I find myself with the time to write today’s Sunday Salon post!

What I love best about The Sunday Salon is checking out what everyone is reading. So my own TSS posts are usually about what I’m currently reading (unless another bookish idea sounds more interesting – I confess, I was debating writing a post about why so many novelists are lawyers, and one day I will, but today is not that day).

I normally have a whole boatload of books on the go (a reflection, I think, of my scattered eclectic way of living), and this week has not been an exception. Immediately after reading Christopher Fowler’s White Corridor, I found myself wanting more of Bryant and May, so I plucked Full Dark House, the first book in the series, out of my TBR. It’s been a great read so far.  Bryant and May are both in their mid-80s (and still working at the Peculiar Crimes Unit) – the story begins, oddly enough, with the news of Bryant’s death. May investigates, and the story goes back and forth between present day and the past. Fowler handles the flashbacks very well, and it’s interesting getting to know the characters as they were at the beginning (and, I should say, at the end).

I also started reading Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess today; I had brought it to Disney with me, but the cheerleaders-as-CIA series The Perfect Squad, as well as Meg Cabot, kept me too well occupied to dip into this Enola Holmes mystery. I’m only on the first chapter still, when Enola’s mother has disappeared, but so far it’s shaping up to be a fun middle-grade read.

Since I started book blogging, my TBR pile has grown tremendously, so I’ve not been re-reading as many books as I used to. But recently I stumbled on my much-loved copy of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, and I made the mistake of flipping it open and reading “just a bit”. With Carr, you can never read “just a bit”, and soon I found myself caught up in his beautiful writing and characterizations, and feeling just that little bit creeped out with the mystery. Carr is such a joy to read – I always find myself wishing he had more books out – and I suspect I will be digging out my copy of Angel of Darkness next.

If you haven’t read The Alienist yet, here’s the summary. The book is even better than the summary promises.

The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or “alienist.” On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels.

The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler’s intellect and Moore’s knowledge of New York’s vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology– amassing a psychological profile of the man they’re looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before. and will kill again before the hunt is over.

Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian’s exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the audiobook I’m currently listening to. My experiment with time had one truly lovely result – I discovered that I can now listen to an audiobook while I work. I’ve tried this in the past, with fairly disastrous results. The nature of my work is such that I’m often at the computer, thinking and typing out what I’m thinking (it sounds like writing but alas, it’s not nearly as interesting as writing); the last time I tried to listen to an audiobook instead of music while working, I ended up typing what I was hearing, instead of what I was thinking.

But I gave it another try yesterday, and was thrilled to discover that I am able to separate the two parts of my my mind somehow and work while listening to an audiobook at the same time. I’m listening to non-fiction, which might be what’s making the difference, as I find with non-fiction if I tune out here and there, I can still get the gist when I tune back in.

So right now, I’m listening to Brian Greene’s wonderful The Elegant Universe. I’ve watched Nova’s gorgeous film of the book, and I have the book itself but never had the time to get to it. Listening while I’m working is the perfect solution. The narrator’s voice works well with the material, evoking space and time and all manner of scientific mysteries; I’ve been meeting my deadlines and overall, feeling quite happy about things!