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The Angel of Darkness: 04/07/09

The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr is the sequel to The Alienist. Both are psychological dramas wrapped in historical fiction. I have not read the first book but Carr spends a good portion of the book filling in the blanks. He probably spent too much time.

The book picks up a year after the first book ends when the wife of a Spanish diplomat begs them to help her find her kidnapped baby. This comes just as Spain and America are at the verge of going to war. Where the last book looks at the psychology of a male serial killer, this one tries to do the same with a female serial killer.

Fans of historical fiction and psychological thrillers seem to love these pair of books. What The Angel of Darkness has reaffirmed for me is that I don't especially like either genre. Put together they are a sure fire combination to have my tuning out a few chapters into the plot.

The problems I had with The Angel of Darkness have to do with the use of language and the description of the setting. All of the characters in the book speak in incredibly ornate and complex ways, even the ex-street urchin. The men and the women alike regardless of background or personal stories all speak like aristocratic book worms.

Combined with all of them speaking like Thurston Howell III or Major Charles Emerson Winchester III is the problem that all of them seemed amazed by the world in which they live. Sure, there are the new inventions like the telephone, the phonograph, the camera and the automobile but almost every generation lives with some form of technological innovation. These new things are there alongside older ways of doing things. Whenever characters stop to marvel at the world the historical fiction loses credibility.

If the dialogue and narrative descriptions were simplified for something more realistic and in keeping with a reformed street thug living in New York City in the late 1890s and most of the explanations of the modern marvels were excised too, this 700 page tome would shrink to a manageable and tightly written thriller of half its current size.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Friday, April, 10, 2009 at 12:05:12


You have me intrigued - I do like both genres so might have to check this one out!

Comment #2: Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 17:40:21


Fans of the genres seem to really enjoy The Angel of Darkness. Happy reading!

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