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The Alienist: #MSWL by Jessica Faust

As a young editorial
assistant I was lucky enough to get my hands on The Alienist by Caleb Carr.
It was a book I never forgot and one that inspired the types of books I knew I
wanted to buy. In fact, it was a book that inspired buying the first in the
Gaslight Mystery series by Victoria Thompson.
This past year I’ve been keeping
you updated on what I’ve been reading. It’s been a fun exercise for me and
hopefully will give you some insights into the types of books I’m hot on
lately. Unfortunately, knowing what book someone has read does not necessarily
give you insights into why she read it or what she most loved about it. And
that’s the type of information that can become crucial when considering whether
an agent might be right for your work. The more you know, the more power you
have.
When I think back to
reading The Alienist, 20 years ago when it was first published, there are
certain elements that really grabbed me. I loved the time period. I loved
learning about and seeing New York at the turn of the century and I loved the
atmosphere Carr had created.
Not only is New York a
city rich in history, but it’s a city I personally love and have always been
fascinated by. Carr wrote a book that kept me riveted and gave me a history
lesson all at the same time. He took a real-life city and made it as much a
character of the book as the characters themselves. He also included real-life
people into his fictional story, something I think makes historical fiction
even stronger.
I’m a sucker for
non-traditional characters and the alienist was a definitely that. I loved that
he wasn’t law enforcement, but had a career that made him a natural for solving
crimes. In many ways he was the first profiler (a career I’m fascinated by).
For me a strong female
protagonist is almost a must. It’s not that I won’t enjoy or read books
featuring great male characters, but I like a character that I can imagine
being and its rare I can imagine being a man. In this case our female character
wasn’t the alienist, but she was essential to everything that happened.
And, in my mind, the
darker the killer the better. I have long had a fascination for serial killers
(in real life and in fiction) and a historical serial killer thrilled me. I was
scared, sat on the edge of my seat, and read the book as fast as I could.
I wrote this post without
looking back on the book. The Alienist is a book that stuck with me and I
wanted to write what I loved about the book by memory. These are the things
that stick out to me even years later and things I’m looking for in new submissions.
The Alienist is definitely
the type of book that’s on my #MSWL list.

–jhf

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3 comments

  1. I've never heard of The Alienist, but when I googled it discovered they are making a series based on it (read here).

    Couldn't find it listed at my local library, but hopefully the series will make its way to Oz.

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