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Surrender, New York: A Novel

Surrender, New York: A Novel

by Caleb Carr


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Imaginative and fulfilling . . . an addictive contemporary crime procedural.”—Michael Connelly, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

Caleb Carr, the author of The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness, returns with a contemporary, edge-of-your-seat thriller featuring the brilliant but unconventional criminal psychologist Dr. Trajan Jones.

In the small town of Surrender in upstate New York, Dr. Jones, a psychological profiler, and Dr. Michael Li, a trace evidence expert, teach online courses in profiling and forensic science from Jones’s family farm. Once famed advisors to the New York City Police Department, Trajan and Li now work in exile, having made enemies of those in power. Protected only by farmhands and Jones’s unusual “pet,” the outcast pair is unexpectedly called in to consult on a disturbing case.

In rural Burgoyne County, a pattern of strange deaths has emerged: adolescent boys and girls are found murdered in gruesome fashion. Senior law enforcement officials are quick to blame a serial killer, yet their efforts to apprehend this criminal are peculiarly ineffective.

Jones and Li soon discover that the victims are all “throwaway children,” a new state classification of young people who are neither orphans, runaways, nor homeless, but who are abandoned by their families and left to fend for themselves. Two of these throwaways, Lucas Kurtz and his older sister, Ambyr, cross paths with Jones and Li, offering information that could blow the case wide open.

As the stakes grow higher, Jones and Li must not only unravel the mystery of how the throwaways died but also defend themselves and the Kurtz siblings against shadowy agents who don’t want the truth to get out. Jones believes the real story leads back to the city where both he and Dr. Kreizler did their greatest work. But will Jones and Li be able to trace the case to New York before they fall victim to the murderous forces that stalk them?

Tautly paced and richly researched, Surrender, New York brings to life the grim underbelly of a prosperous nation—and those most vulnerable to its failings. This brilliant novel marks another milestone in Caleb Carr’s triumphant literary suspense career.

Praise for Surrender, New York

“[A] page-turning thriller . . . For maximum enjoyment: surrender, reader.”The Wall Street Journal

“Every word of fiction Carr has produced seems to have been written in either direct or indirect conversation with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. . . .  [Surrender, New York] allows Carr to deploy his indisputable gift for the gothic and the macabre, and the pursuit is suspenseful and believable.”USA Today

“[A] long-awaited return.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“[A] superb mystery . . . [that moves] at a swift and often terrifying pace. As in The Alienist, Carr triumphs at every twist and turn.”Providence Journal

“Edgar Allan Poe would have understood this book and hailed it a masterpiece. . . . A terrific story with a great setting and a very modern social message.”The Globe and Mail

“[An] engrossing mystery.”Library Journal

“A compulsive read . . . Carr once again delivers a high-stakes thriller featuring a new band of clever, determined outcasts.”Booklist (starred review)

“Carr’s many fans will find this well worth the wait.”Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399591556
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/30/2017
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 101,544
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Caleb Carr is the critically acclaimed author of The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness, The Lessons of Terror, Killing Time, The Devil Soldier, The Italian Secretary, and The Legend of Broken. He has taught military history at Bard College, and worked extensively in film, television, and the theater. His military and political writings have appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals, among them The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in upstate New York.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

August 2, 1955

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


Attended Kenyon College, 1973-75; B.A. in history, New York University, 1977

Read an Excerpt

Part One

The Curse of Knowledge

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. . . . ​Reversing the process is as difficult as un-ringing a bell. You can’t unlearn what you already know. There are, in fact, only two ways to beat the Curse of Knowledge reliably. The first is not to learn anything. The second is to take your ideas and transform them. —Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick

For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. —Ecclesiastes 1:18

Chapter One

“You Cannot Escape It, in This Country”


The case did not so much burst upon as creep over Burgoyne County, New York, just as the sickness that underlay it only took root in the region slowly, insidiously, and long before the first body was found. My own initial indication that at least one crime of an unusual and quite probably violent nature had been committed came in the form of a visit from Deputy Sheriff Pete Steinbrecher, in early July of that summer. I was then living, as I had been for about five years, at Shiloh, a dairy farm belonging to my spinster great-aunt, Miss Clarissa Jones. Shiloh is centered on a large Italianate farmhouse that is the sole residence in Death’s Head Hollow, one of a half-dozen valleys that lead down from the high ground of the northern Taconic Mountains into the small town of Surrender.

Despite my having spent some seven or eight years working as a criminal psychologist (primarily with the New York City Police Department) prior to relocating to the pastoral severity of the Taconics, I had only occasionally interacted with what passes for local law enforcement during my time up north. Due to severe budget cuts at every level of government, there was and remains precious little law in Burgoyne County: communities like Surrender long ago lost their town constabularies, as well as their county sheriff’s substations, and what little regular patrolling the latter department can still do is focused primarily on the county seat of Fraser. The residents of the many small communities in the region have thus been left to see to their own safety, which they are happy to do: for Burgoyne County is gun country, and only in cases involving extreme disturbances are either the sheriff’s office in Fraser or the New York State Police contacted.

For these and other reasons, my main criminological efforts since relocating to my great-aunt’s farm (where I’d spent nearly every weekend and summer vacation as a boy) had been less applied than academic: I’d been establishing an online course of study in various controversial aspects of forensic science under the aegis of the State University of New York at Albany. That institution’s first-rate School of Criminal Justice had long offered a range of classes in forensics, both at the undergraduate and the graduate levels; but its senior faculty and officials, wisely taking into account the scandals that have rocked both federal and regional crime laboratories as well as the field of forensic science generally during the last twenty years, had decided, just before my own relocation to their area, to offer complementary courses that would explore the well-documented weaknesses of forensics. Mine had been one of the most outspoken voices attempting to expose those weaknesses; and because my work (and the methods that underlay them) had led to a series of widely publicized conflicts with the NYPD’s crime lab that had ultimately made me persona non grata in the metropolis where I was born, I was not altogether surprised, but was entirely grateful, when SUNY-Albany offered me the chance to help structure their balancing course of study.

Partnering with my closest co-worker in New York, Mike Li—an expert in trace and DNA evidence who had spent years vociferously pointing out the widespread and often fatal flaws that marred the gathering, handling, and courtroom use of such evidence—I gladly accepted the university’s offer, provided Mike’s and my own courses could be taught online. (The lingering effects of a childhood bout with osteosarcoma on my left femur and pelvis had recently made extended travel, even the fifty miles or so to Albany and back, increasingly difficult for me.) The administrators of the School of Criminal Justice, already anxious to expand their presence in the burgeoning world of online teaching, had readily agreed to this condition; and soon Mike and I had established a virtual lecture hall inside a rickety old airplane hangar that sat on a hill behind two large green barns built in the mid-nineteenth century that were the centerpieces of the farm that my great-aunt oversaw with an iron will.

To be more precise, Mike and I had built our Skype-operated classroom inside the fuselage of a pre–World War II Junkers JU-52/3m, a classic German civilian aircraft, the care and maintenance of which had been the passion of my great-aunt’s father. After piloting it from Germany to Senegal in 1935 via a circuitous European and North African route, the old lunatic had shipped the plane to Brazil and flown it north: an adventure that was apparently as colorful—and expensive—as it sounds. But the tri-engine beast was now immobile, the ghostly occupant of nearly every inch of the large hangar; and inside it Mike and I worked to disabuse our students, first, of the widely accepted idea that forensics (not only trace and DNA collection, but such far older practices as fingerprinting and ballistics, as well) were the “gold standard” of evidentiary analysis and courtroom argument and, second, of the equally popular and pernicious notion that forensics had made criminal psychology, and especially profiling, somehow obsolete.

On the afternoon in question, I had just given a long and fairly impassioned summer term lecture explaining precisely how damaging this last set of beliefs had become, asking that my students—representatives of the coming generation of criminal investigators—restore both psychology and profiling to the positions of respect that they had largely lost when the purportedly more precise areas of forensics had begun to monopolize criminal investigation in the early 1990s. Stepping away from the half-dozen large video monitors that dominated the interior of the JU-52 when I was finally finished, I then descended slowly into the hangar via a set of steel steps that my great-grandfather had built up and over the starboard wing of the plane to the forward hatch, and went outside to lean on my cane and smoke a cigarette. From there, I caught sight of Pete Steinbrecher’s patrol car moving quickly up the hollow, lights flashing but siren mute: Pete was well enough acquainted with both Shiloh and my diminutive yet fiery great-aunt to know that the sound of the siren would bring Clarissa swiftly from the farmhouse, to which she would not return until she had delivered a stern lecture to the deputy on the effects of such sounds on dairy cattle. For this and other reasons, Pete did not brave the hollow on minor errands—indeed, his presence almost certainly indicated just one thing:

“Mike,” I called, stepping back toward the great maw that was the open hangar door, “Pete Steinbrecher’s on his way up.” I could hear Mike cut short his preparations for a seminar as I added flatly, “Looks like someone’s been murdered . . .”

In the time it took Pete to park his patrol car beside one of the milking barns below the hangar, Mike shot out of the plane and down the steel steps, his mood characteristically brightened. “Excellent!” he called as he joined me, his eyes—narrowed by years of examining often microscopic pieces of evidence—widening with enthusiasm. “Should I cancel my next class?” He looked up at me eagerly (Mike stands about five foot six, even when excited, while I, despite my usual stooped posture, am a good half-foot taller), and grinned almost fiendishly as he accepted a cigarette from the pack I held out to him.

“Not yet,” I said, pulling a pocket watch from my vest and popping it open. “You’ve got a good twenty minutes—let’s hear him out, first.”

“Ah,” Mike noised in disappointment. “How did I know you were going to say that, gweilo?” (When irritated with me, it was Mike’s custom to use the Cantonese phrase for “white devil.”)

“Easy, there, Yellow Peril,” I answered, replacing my watch, producing a Zippo lighter, and offering its flame to my partner.

“Damn it, L.T.,” Mike replied. “I’ve told you, ‘Yellow Peril’ refers to the Japs—and the Chinese have a lot more fucking reasons to hate them than you do. So dibs.”

I turned to him, amused. “ ‘Dibs’?”

“On hating the Japanese,” Mike said, with a wave of his cigarette.

“Ah,” I replied with a nod; but I could not help another chuckle. “ ‘Dibs,’ ” I murmured. “You often have a whimsical way of putting things, Michael . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—come on, Trajan, I’m half-crazed for a real case.”

“You’re always half-crazed. And we don’t know that this is a real case: he may just want advice.”

“Sure,” Mike said dubiously, as we smoked and watched the deputy walk up a dirt pathway toward us. “Pete’s risking a nasty run-in with your aunt for advice.”

“Just give the man a chance to talk,” I said.

Pete held up a hand in greeting as he neared us, then removed his grey Stetson when he arrived to shake each of our hands. “Doc,” he said to me. “Mike. I, uh—I’m wondering if you’re in the mood to help the county out.” Pete was a big man, with solid German features typical of the many waves of immigrants from that country who had come to upstate New York during the nineteenth century. In addition, he possessed the kind of even, sonorous voice that I admired in honest, hardworking first responders, which in his case was lightly tinged with the not-quite-definable but appealing accent of the area, a sound that was very unlike the affected redneck twang that younger locals had adopted: ironically, only after farming had ceased to be their chief occupation.

“Cigarette, Pete?” I said, holding out the pack. I noted, as did he, that my hand was trembling, slightly but uncontrollably, in anticipation of his news.

“You know damn well my wife made me quit, Dr. Jones,” Pete answered, drawing out a handkerchief and wiping his brow. “I come home smelling like smoke and she’ll crease my skull with a socket wrench.”

I did indeed know this; but it was the nature of our relationship, just as it was of my interactions with Mike, to push each other’s buttons with abandon. Returning the pack to my jacket pocket, I loosened my tie and asked, “So—who’s dead?”

“Jesus . . .” Pete’s smile suddenly disappeared and his visage darkened—but it was what he’d said that was the more important indication that something very unusual was up. Burgoyne County may be gun country, but it is not, for the most part, church country; and those few who, like Pete, fight to keep its sprinkling of multi-denominational Christian churches alive take their work and its details seriously—yet the matter at hand, and my light reference to it, had permitted him to utter what he considered a genuine blasphemy. “You don’t half tread lightly, do you, Doc?” he went on, mournfully. Putting his hat back on his head, which was now free of the sweat drawn out by the July heat, Pete next assumed an uncharacteristically official air. “Truth be told, I’d rather you see it for yourself.”

I eyed this one of my few good friends in county law enforcement closely. “Pete? What is it?”

“You want to come inside, have a beer, Pete?” Mike asked, also studying the deputy’s face and seeing the unusual amount of concern—even bewilderment—on it. Pete had of course handled deaths before, and even murders; but at just that moment the man was clearly rattled.

He shook his head to Mike, smiling briefly in gratitude. “I gotta get back. Hopefully with the Doc, here. You’re welcome to come along, too, Mike. We could use you.”

Mike turned to me and tried to suppress a smile of deep satisfaction. “Well—an official invitation. So it’s none of your fucking business, anymore, L.T.” Quickly stamping out his cigarette, Mike told Pete, “Just give me five minutes to tell my class. Maybe give them some extra homework. Can you spare it?”

“Sure,” Pete answered, visibly relieved. “If it’s really just five minutes, no problem.”

“I could use a few minutes, too,” I said, turning toward a pasture that stretched away on a hill behind and above the hangar. About ten acres in size, the enclosure occupied ground that led to a small foothill at the base of a steep, heavily wooded mountain. It was surrounded by an especially strong and, at ten feet, exceptionally tall, high-tensile box wire fence, reinforced by tight chicken wire. “I’ve got to take care of something . . .”

“You going to feed your ‘dog’?” Pete asked, finally easing up and smiling freely.

“I am. You want to tag along?”

“Doc—no disrespect, but, uh, you know that thing—”

“That ‘rare African hunting dog’?” I quickly interjected.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll keep playing along with the story, don’t worry. But you know the thing makes me nervous.”

“The more time you spend around her, the less reason you’ll have to be nervous. Besides, she likes you. A little.”

“Yeah, well—a little ain’t enough, thanks all the same. I’ll just wait here.” As I walked toward a nearby gate in the fencing that was covered on each side with several additional layers of wire, I heard Pete shout, “What’s the damned thing’s name again?”

“Marcianna!” I called back to him. “The favorite sister of the Roman emperor Trajan.”

“And he wonders,” I heard Pete tell Mike, “why I can’t remember it . . .”

When I reached the enclosure gate and issued a very particular call—almost a chirp, in its way, and a sound that usually brought my favorite sister running—I discovered that Marcianna was nowhere to be seen. From long experience I knew that she had likely caught some large bird—a raven or crow, in all probability, or perhaps even a hawk that had spotted some small rodent within her enclosure—and was enjoying the kill inside the large stone den that I had designed for her, using flat and oblong boulders brought down from high on the mountain by several of the farmhands with a tractor and sledge. The hands had not known, at the time, what they were building, or what it might be intended to house; and when they subsequently found out, they played along with my request that they not reveal the secret of what lived inside the enclosure, just as Pete and a few others would later do. As time went by, it became something of a speculative legend, in Surrender, and I think everyone in the know got a kick out of not revealing the answer.

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