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Ratings and Reviews

Overall rating

3.8 out of 5
15
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  • 2 person found this review helpful

    2 people found this review helpful

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    I just couldn't get into it...

    Ugh. I really don’t like writing book reviews for books I couldn’t get into… This was one. And it was a book I requested, which makes it doubly disappointing. My review copy was generously provided by the good people at Random House. I am a huge fan of several of Caleb Carr’s earlier works. The Alienist and its sequel The Angel of Darkness and Killing Time are all phenomenal, as I’ve noted before. Carr writes detailed, lengthy, complicated books. Normally, I love that; I love getting drawn into a story, watching the story unfold through minutiae, particularly in mysteries. His latest book looked to be in that vein, and I was thrilled at the chance to get an advance copy for review. Unfortunately, something fell horribly flat for me with this one – so much so that I couldn’t even finish it… I loved the premise – the revisiting, even only conceptually, of Dr. Laszlo Kreizler from The Alienist/Angel series was very encouraging. I loved those books and that character and always lamented that there were not more of them. So any chance to bring him back, even tangentially as an influence for a contemporary character in a contemporary story, held tremendous promise. When I started reading, that promise seemed like it was about to be well realized. The first pages could have been progeny of the Kreizler books. The language felt comfortable and familiar coming from Carr’s pen (computer, whatever). I’ve seen other reviewers slam him for the formality of the language. Admittedly, it is unusual in a contemporary novel to find formal, nineteenth century-feeling, language for descriptions and scene-setting. That didn’t bother me though, because it felt like Carr – and once I got far enough in to get a good feel for Dr. Trajan Jones, it felt altogether appropriate. What to many seems to have felt like jarring dissonance felt, to me, like an homage – and a particularly relevant one, given Jones’ particular methods and personality. It was slow-going, but that was not necessarily a problem – until, rather suddenly, it was. I can’t point my finger to the issue I had, or explain it very well. All I know is that I have now opened and closed this book no less than a half-dozen times – and not because I’ve run out of reading time, but because I keep losing the story – and I’m not even to page 100. Each time I start reading, hit a rough spot, push through, hit a point that feels like the Carr I so enjoy, then suddenly find myself veering into a rather rambling exegesis on something that loses me entirely… Each. Time. Frustrating, to say the least. There is fabulous bone structure here, but it’s lost in an elephant-man tangle that I just can’t push past… It feels as though Carr wasn’t quite sure what book he was trying to write. On one hand, it is a mystery. On another, it is history. On a third, it is an explication of the challenges of being unconventional in a thoroughly (and downright depressingly) conventional world. On a fourth… Get the picture yet? If not I’ll short-hand it for you: it is a book that defies easy categorization, because it is (attempting to be) many things at once. The problem for me was that it felt like those things were disparate, and layered together like a sandwich, rather than patiently interwoven. And that’s where it kept losing me. Despite repeated attempts and much frustrated confusion on my part, I simply could not work my way through the entire thing or gin up enough interest to keep trying after the fourth or fifth time I found myself setting it aside for something else. I got about six inches into the mystery, but already felt like I was wandering out of my depth – and couldn’t gin up the interest to forage further in. It was just too much work, fighting for every inch… I will come back to it. There is a lot of very great stuff here – some that feels familiar but with the twist of new presentation, some that feels utterly original. Plus there’s Carr’s reputation, which is both deserved and substantial. But for right now, I’m afraid I had to finally call a halt to it.
  • 1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

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    Complex, detailed and touching at the same time.

    This is my first book by Caleb Starr. I discovered it by reading a complimentary review in the New York Times. First, I have to disclose that I love books that are diving into details, either visual or psychological, or even historical, as happens in Surrender, NY. This book is rich with all of the above. It's complex by the nature of the crime plot, intimate by the depth of characterization, and interesting by the exploration of the distortion of justice occasioned by new crime scenes analysis techniques. I enjoyed following Doctor Trajan Jones and his good friend Mike Li in this incredible adventure. With twists and turns we find out what makes them tick, what depth they will go to do what's right. I am not sure I would have had the strength of character required if I got into TJ's moral dilemma. Also, I very much liked his relationship with Marcianna. For fear of revealing too much I will not tell you more, but she's one of the most touching characters of the book. Besides the continued fascination through the development of the case, there were moment where I laughed, moments where I had tears welling up in my eyes. And then, there were big sighs as you do when confronted with the inevitability of the hardships of life. So, yes, I enjoyed this book tremendously, and now I am really looking forward to explore all the other books Caleb Starr wrote so far.
  • 1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

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    The author doth talk too much.

    I enjoyed the story, the plot and characters, but the narrative is much longer than necessary. While the detail was sometimes interesting, it often took away from the plot. I see in the author's acknowledgments that verbosity is a natural trait for him. Such being the case, I will be less inclined to read another Caleb Carr book.
  • 0 person found this review helpful

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    Modern version of a Caleb Carr mystery.

    Gripping suspenseful story written in the style of The Alienist and Angel of Darkness, set in upstate New York. I miss Police Commissioner Roosevelt and gilded age NYC but Mr. Carr has created a competent new team of investigators. I liked the familiarity of the narrator's voice, but the modern parlance seemed out of place somehow. My reason for the 4 star review is my preference for the earlier setting.
  • 0 person found this review helpful

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    Slow and wordy

    The tough thing for me was the main character and narrator. This individual was pedantic, egocentric and verbose. If he doesnt bother you then you might enjoy the book.
15

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