readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Surrender, New York – Caleb Carr *

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Surrender, New York
Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

But… I LOVED ‘The Alienist’!

Seriously considered DNF-ing this one at around 23%, but the problem is, it’s a mystery. Even when a mystery isn’t very compelling, one really kind of wants to find out who dunnit. I shouldn’t have bothered continuing. GIANT SPOILER (view spoiler) What a rip-off.

OK, this is a sequel, of sorts, to ‘The Alienist’ and ‘The Angel of Darkness.’ However, it’s contemporary, rather than being set in the 19th century. It took me a bit to realize that though, due to the narrator’s stilted and affected mode of speaking. After I realized we weren’t in the 19th century, I assumed the speaker must be like, eighty, or something. But no, it turns out he’s in his 40s or something around there, although he keeps oddly harping on how old and over-the-hill he is. He’s just a fuddy-duddy. Now, I could handle a book having an annoying, arrogant, jerk protagonist with a fuddy-duddy attitude – but the problem is, it’s not just the protagonist. It’s the whole book. The book keeps over-explaining things that any average reader ought to know, making cases for positions that are just a bit… off… going on terribly dull tangents, and just really getting things “wrong.”

The setup: Dr. Trajan Jones and Dr. Mike Li are criminal investigators and followers of the 19th-century “alienist” or criminal psychologist Lazlo Kreizler. Dr. Jones is the protagonist, and Li is basically his sidekick and the excuse for an inexcusable amount of remarkably un-funny recurring ethnic “humor.” (I mean, it was cringe-worthy). The two men’s disdain for mainstream forensic science has gotten them “kicked out” of New York City, and now they’re upstate, around Rensselaer County, reluctantly teaching online college courses.

It so happens I’ve spent a reasonable bit of time around the NY State locations that this novel features, and I thought my enjoyment would be enhanced by that knowledge. But I didn’t feel that the depiction of the social milieu there was accurate at all. The author lives upstate, so go figure. I guess our experiences & perceptions are different. I also know quite a few professors, and I am happy to report that I know none who are as dismissive, unprofessional and disrespectful toward their students as these are.

Anyway, the two investigators are pretty much delighted when a local teenager turns up dead, so they can have a crime to investigate, rather than just the tedium of teaching. The deceased was a “throwaway child” and the book spends an absurd amount of time clutching its pearls and trying (but failing) to convince the reader that the idea that parents would abandon their teenage offspring is a never-before-heard-of ill unique to the modern era. And wait! This girl was not alone! Other “throwaway” children have turned up dead! And local police – and even the FBI – are strangely reluctant to accept any investigative help. However, Jones and Li insist on continuing to stick their noses in, given an edge by their rather unethical recruitment of a super-annoying local high school boy. Boy has a blind sister who serves as a love interest. Drama. Romance. Investigating. Random blather. More random blather. A bit more investigating. Some very boring revelations. Blah, blah.

I really did not like this book. And I think I’m done with Caleb Carr, ‘Alienist’ notwithstanding.
Nevertheless, many thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the copy of the book. Obviously, my opinions are solely my own.

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