BookBrowse Reviews The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

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The Interpretation of Murder

A Novel

by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld X
The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 450 pages

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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. First novel

From the book jacket: 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.

Comment: The Dante Club meets the sexual manipulations of Les Liaisons dangereuses in this intelligent historical novel by Jed Rubenfeld, one of the country's foremost experts on constitutional law, and a Professor of Law at Yale, who graduated from Princeton having written his thesis on Freud (apparently, he also found time to study Shakespeare at The Juilliard School).

A number of reviewers compare Rubenfeld to Caleb Carr, and specifically to The Alienist (1994) which is also set in late-19th Century New York, with some thinking that Carr's is the better novel (it's always a challenge for a new book to live up to the fond memory of a formerly read book).

The Interpretation of Murder
(a play on the title of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams) is an enjoyable first novel, albeit a little overstuffed - wealthy sadists, unscrupulous villains, inscrutable Chinamen, violent psychoanalysts, scheming entrepreneurs, political corruption and beautiful damsels in distress all vie for center stage. There's even a dollop of kinky sex (usually tastefully off stage) thrown in for good measure.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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