Excerpt from The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Interpretation of Murder

A Novel

by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 384 pages
    Jun 2007, 450 pages

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I liked Ferenczi at once, but I had never before shaken a hand that offered no resistance whatsoever, less than a joint of meat at the butcher’s. It was embarrassing: he let out a yelp and yanked his fingers away as if they had been crushed. I apologized profusely, but he insisted he was glad to “start learning right away American walls,” a remark at which I could only nod in polite agreement.
Jung, who was about thirty-five, made a markedly different impression. He was better than six feet tall, unsmiling, blue-eyed, dark-haired, with an aquiline nose, a pencil-thin mustache, and a great expanse of forehead—quite attractive to women, I should have thought, although he lacked Freud’s ease. His hand was firm and cold as steel. Standing ramrod straight, he might have been a lieutenant in the Swiss Guard, except for his little round scholarly spectacles. The affection Brill clearly felt for Freud and Ferenczi was nowhere in evidence when he shook Jung’s hand.
“How was your passage, gentlemen?” asked Brill. We could not go anywhere; our guests’ trunks had to be collected. “Not too wearisome?”
“Capital,” said Freud. “You won’t believe it: I found a steward reading my Psychopathology of Everyday Life.”
“No!” Brill replied. “Ferenczi must have put him up to it.”
“Put him up?” Ferenczi cried out. “I did no such—”
Freud took no notice of Brill’s comment. “It may have been the most gratifying moment of my professional life, which does not perhaps reflect too well on my professional life. Recognition is coming to us, my friends: recognition, slowly but surely.”
“Did the crossing take long, sir?” I inquired idiotically.
“A week,” Freud answered, “and we spent it in the most productive way possible: we analyzed each other’s dreams.”
“Good God,” said Brill. “I wish I had been there. What were the results, in the name of heaven?”
“Well, you know,” Ferenczi returned, “analysis is rather like being undressed in public. After you overcome initial humiliation, is quite refreshing.”
“That’s what I tell all my patients,” said Brill, “especially the women. And what about you, Jung? Did you also find the humiliation refreshing?”
Jung, almost a foot taller than Brill, looked down on him as if at a laboratory specimen. “It is not quite accurate,” he replied, “to say the three of us analyzed each other.”
“True,” Ferenczi confirmed. “Freud rather analyzed us, while Jung and I crossed interpretative swords with each other.”
“What?” Brill exclaimed. “You mean no one dared to analyze the Master?”
“No one was permitted to,” said Jung, betraying no affect.
“Yes, yes,” said Freud, with a knowing smile, “but you all analyze me to death as soon as my back is turned, don’t you, Abraham?”
“We do indeed,” Brill replied, “because we are all good sons, and we know our Oedipal duty.”
In the apartment high above the city, a set of instruments lay on the bed behind the bound girl. From left to right, there were: a man’s right-angled razor, with a bone handle; a black leather riding crop about two feet in length; three surgical knives, in ascending order of size; and a small vial half full of a clear fluid. The assailant considered and picked up one of these instruments.

Copyright © 2006 by Jed Rubenfeld

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