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Jed Rubenfeld is the Robert R. Slaughter Professor at Yale Law School and an internationally recognized expert on constitutional law. His first novel, "The Interpretation of Murder," was a worldwide bestseller, with over a million copies sold.
THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER is probably the most hyped thriller of the year. This debut novel, which takes place in New York during the summer of 1909, promises an exciting murder mystery where the legendary Dr. Sigmund Freud tries to track down a killer of a young society woman.
As a thriller, I must admit this novel really disappointed me. Freud is not a central character in this book at all. Instead, this novel features a large number of characters, and author Jed Rubenfeld keeps shifting the focus from one character to another. As a result, none of the characters are fully developed and many of them end up as slightly cartoonish.
In particular, I was heavily displeased with how Dr. Carl Jung was portrayed in this novel. Rubenfeld portrays Jung as a thoroughly unlikable person, a borderline psychopath with virtually no redeemable qualities whatsoever. Freud, by contrast, is portrayed as a virtual saint. Although I am not an expert on either man, I seriously doubt that these are fair and accurate portrayals of what these men were really like.
In the end, the large number of one-dimensional characters made this novel a somewhat sterile experience. I did not find this book the least bit emotionally engaging, which is a fatal problem for any thriller. In order to be thrilled by a book, I have to care for the people inside it. That did not happen with THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER.
I was also highly disappointed by the ending of this novel, when Rubenfeld reveals who the murderer is, and how the crime was committed. This is, quite simply, one of the most convoluted and unbelievable explanations for a crime that I have ever read. This book has an abnormally large number of plot twists at the end, but none of them were the least bit credible.Read more ›
I don't especially consider myself a fan of historical fiction. But every now and then I stumble upon a novel that's purely entertaining. The Interpretation of Murder is one such novel, and I have to say that the depiction of New York in 1909 was my favorite part of the book. The city itself is like a character!
It's clear that debut novelist Rubenfeld did his research. Not just about the city, but also about his famous characters. The novel is set during the one and only visit of Sigmund Freud to America. Apparently, for the rest of his life Freud referred to Americans as "savages" and spoke disparagingly of the US. It's a true historical mystery, because no one knows what may have happened while Freud was here that so soured the man on this country and its people.
In the mystery of this book, Freud visits America with his desciple Carl Jung and gets involved with a murder. The psychologists--along with a fictional counterpart, Dr. Stratham Younger--are asked to consult on the case. Amazingly, Rubenfeld has stolen great chunks of the character's dialog from their real life writing and correspondence, lending a verisimilitude to their psychobabble. While the doctors are analyzing everyone they encounter, the case is being solved by Dr. Younger and wet-behind-the-ears Detective Littlemore.
Others have gone into the plot in more detail, and as convoluted as the story is, there doesn't seem to be much point in me doing it again. And that may be the novel's biggest flaw. The many, many twists and reversals in this psychological who-done-it keep you turning the pages at a lightning pace, but the final denouement takes nearly 50 pages to explain what really happened! That's a lot of 'splaining!Read more ›
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This book has been deceptively promoted as a mystery and one in which Freud (in America in 1909 to deliver a lecture at a university) helps to solve a murder. This book is neither of those things! There is no crime-solving in this story: the murderer simply confesses. Freud does not become involved in the murder investigation, focused as he is on averting a potential cancellation of his lecture due to American controversy over his theory and practice of psychoanalysis. Freud's contribution to the book consists of his supplying New York's mayor a professional referral to one Dr. Streatham Younger, an American psychiatrist and narrator of this story who is attracted to Freud's theories. Younger takes up the referral and attempts to apply Freud's approach to the treatment of a young lady's sudden speech paralysis that has followed an attack upon her by someone who may or not also be the murderer in the police investigation.
The clunky prose and dialogue of this book create a thoroughly unbelievable story that provides readers no sense of early 20th century life beyond a few historical facts and place names. Yes, Brooklyn Bridge is being built when Freud arrives in America. There is social competition between aristocratic families, uh-huh. It's a pre-car era with horse-drawn carriages,yeh-yeh. Without these bald data and the fact that Freud did actually visit the United States at that time, the events of this story could be occurring in any urban area where English is spoken and at any time between the late 1800's and 1940. New York City of the pertinent period is not well sketched. In this story, it appears as little more than a cardboard box into which the author tosses his considerations of Shakespeare and psychoanalysis, and his preference for Freud's constructs over Jung's.Read more ›