Summary and book reviews of The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder

A Novel

By Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2006,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2007,
    450 pages.

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Book Summary

In this ingenious, suspenseful historical thriller, Sigmund Freud is drawn into the mind of a sadistic killer who is savagely attacking Manhattan’s wealthiest heiresses

Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s only visit to America, The Interpretation of Murder is an intricate tale of murder and the mind’s most dangerous mysteries. It unfurls on a sweltering August evening in 1909 as Freud disembarks from the steamship George Washington, accompanied by Carl Jung, his rival and protégé. Across town, in an opulent apartment high above the city, a stunning young woman is found dangling from a chandelier—whipped, mutilated, and strangled. The next day, a second beauty—a rebellious heiress who scorns both high society and her less adventurous parents—barely escapes the killer. Yet Nora Acton, suffering from hysteria, can recall nothing of her attack. Asked to help her, Dr. Stratham Younger, America’s most committed Freudian analyst, calls in his idol, the Master himself, to guide him through the challenges of analyzing this high-spirited young woman whose family past has been as complicated as his own.

The Interpretation of Murder leads readers from the salons of Gramercy Park, through secret passages, to Chinatown—even far below the currents of the East River where laborers are building the Manhattan Bridge. As Freud fends off a mysterious conspiracy to destroy him, Younger is drawn into an equally thrilling adventure that takes him deep into the subterfuges of the human mind.

Richly satisfying, elegantly crafted, The Interpretation of Murder marks the debut of a brilliant, spectacularly entertaining new storyteller.


In 2007 The Interpretation of Murder won the prestigious Best Read of the Year award from Richard and Judy's Bookclub in the UK (comparable to Oprah Winfrey in the USA).

Chapter One

There is no mystery to happiness.

Unhappy men are all alike. Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn—or worse, indifference—cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He doesn’t look ahead. He lives in the present.
 
But there’s the rub. The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning—the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life—a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.
...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following list of questions about The Interpretation of Murder are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Interpretation of Murder.

About the Book

The Interpretation of Murder opens on a hot summer night in 1909 as Sigmund Freud disembarks in New York from a steamship. With Freud is his rival Carl Jung; waiting for him on the docks is a young physician named Stratham Younger, one of Freud’s most devoted American supporters. So begins this story of what will be the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The Dante Club meets the sexual manipulations of Les Liaisons dangereuses in this intelligent historical, first novel.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (564 words).

Media Reviews
GQ

Fun and fantastic. You can look for the deeper meaning in Freud and Jung's lovers' quarrel, or you can just skip to the dirty parts.

New York Daily News

This baroque tale of egos and ids run rampant will be a welcome treat to fans of Caleb Carr's The Alienist . . . Find a couch and prepare for a page-turning session.

Rocky Mountain News

Readers who give this cerebral concoction even the slightest chance will be captivated by its myriad intrigues, its dubious cast of heroes and villains, and its palpable tension .... Proves once again that crime and literature need not be separate beasts. Grade A.

Publishers Weekly

While not as well crafted as Caleb Carr's similarly themed The Alienist, this well-researched and thought-provoking novel is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Library Journal

Filled with period detail, this historical thriller challenges the reader to reason out the mystery. Rubenfeld ....shows great talent for psychological suspense and uses shifting viewpoints to build tension. Fans of Caleb Carr will adore this work.

Kirkus Reviews

Meaty and provocative, though also grandiose and calculated.

Author Blurb Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club
...a richly motivated thriller that will make you reconsider the mysteries of Freud and Hamlet. Here is a novel that you'll only want to put down in order to think more about the book.

Reader Reviews
LHM

Great Read
This novel is a historical thriller based around Sigmund Freud's only visit to America and the early development of Psychoanalysis. It has a great murder plot with interesting NYC trivia about life in early 19th century. The narrative jumps a bit, ...   Read More

esther

fantastic
I loved this book. On a usual shopping day, I noticed this book, bought it and saved it for when I had time to read it. Now that I'm through with it, I'm almost in withdrawal. I lent the book to a friend because she couldn't believe it could be ...   Read More

Victoria

THOUGHTFUL
This is on my top 5 favorite books of all time. It keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Also I absolutely loved all the psychoanalyst stuff in it. I want to be a psychiatrist when I am older so it was very interesting to read and learn ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Interpretation of Murder is inspired by the real-life mystery surrounding Freud's one and only visit to America in 1909 when he came to deliver lectures at Clark University. The trip appeared to be a tremendous success and Freud was portrayed glowingly in newspapers. However, he returned to Europe referring to Americans as "savages" and "primitives" and blaming America for his breakdown in health, even though he had been sick well before visiting the USA.

Although many of Freud's theories have been rejected, his memory, and some of his methods, ...

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