The Angel of Darkness

Caleb Carr, Author Random House Inc $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-679-43532-7
The multitudes who enjoyed The Alienist are in for a surprise when they open this comfortable sequel to that mega-seller. Gone is the crisp, educated narration of New York Times reporter James Moore, replaced by the hotter, more ragged tones of former street urchin Stevie, a relatively minor figure in the first novel. That's a bold move on Carr's part--Conan Doyle never replaced Watson--but not too bold, as it cuts staleness. Otherwise, the novel retreads its predecessor's prowl through Olde New York and resurrects its catchy crime-busting crew of alienist Laszlo Kreizler and his carefully typecast assistants, as well as a flurry of historical figures (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Teddy Roosevelt, et al.) whose appearances again blend into the action like stones into cake batter. Why tinker with success? Carr doesn't really, though for variety's sake he takes Kreizler and company upstate for a spell as they gather evidence against the monstrous Libby Hatch, a serial killer whose kidnapping of an infant gets Kreizler on her trail and smack up against society's sentiments about the sanctity of women. Carr also offers some courtroom dramatics as Libby is put on trial, defended by Clarence Darrow. Like The Alienist, this is a talky thriller, paced less by its bursts of violence (culminating in the U.S. Navy invading Greenwich Village) than by its broodings--psychological, moral, legal--about the roots of evil. To experience it is to plunge into a meticulously reconstructed past where ideas count and where the principals take their time exploring them. Just so, readers will want to take their time exploring Carr's cleverly crafted sequel, a novel whose myriad pleasures exude the essence of intelligent leisure reading. 250,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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