Earlier this week I finally finished reading The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr, the sequel to The Alienist which I read earlier this fall. I say finally finished because Allegiant came out while I was in the middle of it, and I took a break to reread Insurgent to catch up on the goings on of that series before the last book came out. So this review has been a while in the making.
As a whole, I felt like The Alienist was a better read, but Angel of Darkness definitely did have its strengths. Carr did a good job of making it its own unique story by setting up the story differently, so that it wasn’t just a repeat of his previous book.
Unlike The Alienist, Angel of Darkness starts off by telling the reader who the villain is up front. The story progresses as the team works to prove that she in fact did it.
The story starts with the wife of a Spanish diplomat coming to Sara for help when her baby is kidnapped. Sara has continued to run the detective agency that was established in the first story, and primarily helps women in New York.
The diplomat has forbid his wife from getting help, but the woman is desperate and has come to Sara in secret. What’s more is that she swears to have seen a woman, Libby Hatch, on the subway carrying her baby. The case brings the group out of New York City to upstate New York, where they examine Libby’s past and uncover some haunting information about the woman in question that leads them farther into the case than they thought possible.
The story is narrated by Stevie Taggert, one of Dr. Kreizler’s old patients, who now works for Kreizler after Kreizler helped him get back on his feet after living in the streets as a child. Taggert comes from a rough background, and tells a different kind of story than John Moore did. For one, his speech is different, more slangy, which is apparent in the narration. Also, since he is a side character, and does not always attend the same meetings or encounters as Moore and Kreizler, the reader gets a better idea of what is happening outside the kind of meetings that they first saw in The Alienist.
The story also differs in that the primary focus of the narrative once the team gets out of the city, is the trial for Libby Hatch and her past actions. This makes it much less action packed that Carr’s first story which had no shortage of chase scenes and intrigue. Carr still does keep the drama and suspense up as much as he can, but at times it did feel slow.
Still, the focus of the book was still interesting, and Carr does grapple with a couple of interesting themes, especially considering the era which the story takes place in. In his previous book, Carr established his strength in writing strong female characters and he takes that strength to a new level in this book with Sara Howard, Kat – Stevie Taggert’s friend who finds herself mixed up in the seedy underbelly of gang life in New York, and Libby Hatch herself.
What was probably most interesting was Carr’s examination of Hatch as a character. Carr looks at what happens to a woman who is ultimately a bad caregiver in an era where caregiving was the only role a woman could really play in the higher circles of life. Mix that with Libby Hatch’s personality and muddled past and the result could be toxic.
Angel of Darkness also picked up where The Alienist left off in terms of new crime solving techniques when the group hires an artist to draw a depiction of a character simply based on description. We all know these as sketch artists but back then this was a new concept for everyone. The book also continues to bring in an array of characters from history from Vanderbuilt, to Clarence Darrow, a famous defense lawyer of the era.
While I did enjoy The Alienist more than The Angel of Darkness, I do appreciate Carr’s ability to change up the story for his second novel. I always like it when you can revisit characters from a previous book, and it was nice to return to the world of old New York.