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The Death Instinct Hardcover – January 20, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; Reprint edition (January 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487828
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The 1920 bombing of Wall Street, the most deadly act of terrorism in the United States until the Oklahoma blast of 1995, provides the framework for Rubenfeld's excellent follow-up to The Interpretation of Murder. The sweeping plot details the baffling hunt for those responsible for the death and injury of more than 400 New Yorkers. Numerous intriguing subplots snake out from the main story line, several of which bring such historical figures as Marie Curie, famous for her radium experiments, and Sigmund Freud, who had a significant role in the previous book, to life. Rubenfeld deftly wends his way through the shifting landscape with a historian's factual touch and a storyteller's eye for the dramatic and telling. Readers will be enthralled as Dr. Stratham Younger, the hero of The Interpretation of Murder--aided by his beautiful fiancée, scientist Colette Rousseau, and Det. James Littlemore--manages to solve the Wall Street bombing, something that the real authorities never did. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The destruction of the World Trade Center was not New York’s first terrorist attack. In 1920, a bomb blast on Wall Street sent cars tumbling and bodies flying. Rubenfeld’s novel, opening with the explosion, has the feel of a historical mystery. A cop and his sidekick are on the scene at once. The investigation begins. A witness to the explosion recalls seeing something that didn’t belong but can’t recall it. Thriller under way? Well, not exactly. Suddenly we’re into a 30-page World War I flashback. Then we visit Vienna for tea with Doctor Freud. We learn of Marie Curie’s work with radium. The sidekick has a rocky time with his love life, and we learn all about it. This fat book is heir to Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, using the detective format as a chance to wander in the past. Rubenfeld ends with an explanation of the 1920 attack that finds parallels to 9/11. The leads are witty, and the prose is elegant. But readers should prepare to wallow in the book and take it slowly. --Don Crinklaw

More About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

The characters are wooden,plot is ridiculous.
Gail R. Brown
I was disappointed in this book after reading the New York Times' rave review.
Poodytat
Incredible blend of historical facts and fiction.
photobrarian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Although it makes use of a little-known real-life incident of terrorism on American soil - an explosion on Wall Street on Sept 16th 1920 - and follows through on all the political implications with meticulous consideration for the historical period, at heart Jed Rubenfeld's follow-up to The Interpretation of Murder is a huge, engaging, ripping yarn. It's well-written, carefully researched and intelligently put across, but the emphasis is definitely on the adventure and the romance of the period.

And it just happens to be a highly interesting period in American history. Post-First World War, where many Americans have lost their lives in the trenches during the final stages of the Great War, with Prohibition in force and the Depression on the horizon, to say nothing of the conditions being set for the next World War, The Death Instinct convincingly depicts the state of the world of anarchists and nascent terrorism being used as an effective and sometimes legitimate means of causing serious political upheaval.

Technology too has advanced, as has the understanding of human psychology, and both are integrated into the fabric of the times, particularly in consideration of notions of extreme violence, death and killing, all of which have new implications in the post-war generation, as well as being having implications (and an obvious parallel in 9/11) for the present day and the current place of America in the new world order. All of this is superbly brought into the story, without unnecessary lecturing or over-emphasis, blending wonderfully and imaginatively into the events surrounding the bombing of Wall Street.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In Jed Rubenfeld's sexy, moody, Hitchcockian-cum-Freudian-cum-Jungian literary novel, The Interpretation of Murder, Dr. Stratham Younger narrates a story within the framework of a fictional journal, focusing on his experiences with Drs. Jung and Freud on their revolutionary visit to the United States in 1909. Rubenfeld braided historical fact and fiction in this Manhattan corkscrew murder mystery, centering on Freud's pioneering "talking therapy" and penning some biting dialogue between the three psychoanalysts. Younger's skepticism and attraction to Freud's theories enhanced the mesmerizing story of his attempt to cure a damaged, neurotic, and mute woman. The novel was peopled with a sprawling cast of doctors and louche politicians, drawing the reader into a lush, dissecting mixture of cerebral scrutiny and emotional desire.

Rubenfeld's second and very ambitious novel also weaves fact and fiction, with extensive scope, while adopting some of the motifs and themes from his debut work. This time the author is tacitly paralleling events in the novel to the economic depression of contemporary times, as well as the 9/11 tragedies.

The year is now 1920, the eve of the roaring twenties, women's suffrage, and the transition from Wilson to Harding. Nobel Prize winner (twice) Madame Curie is about to tour the United States to raise funds for her research on radium. Radium is already being used in industry to paint luminous watch dials, poisoning the working women at a factory in Manhattan. Many factory workers are out of work altogether.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By NILS BLATZ on March 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A Brooklyn Bridge spanning the Hudson!! serves as a symbol of the carelessness of this writing. Nothing is worse than a mystery that is improbable at best and absurd at worst. Our hero dives through a closed glass window, nary a bruise, ending up only "spitting paint and wood chips" (played by Bruce Willis?) He follows a radioactive trail through Manhattan using a primitive Geiger counter. Terrible physics; terrible writing.
After some rave reviews, this book is a huge disappointment indeed. I want my money back! N. Blatz
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rett01 VINE VOICE on March 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some people liked it, but "The Death Instinct" by Jed Rubenfeld sure got trashed by a lot of reviewers, with one and two-star reviews being handed out like rotten tomatoes tossed on a compost pile.

I'm still trying to figure out what the deal is. What is it about the book that so peeved so many reviewers? I wasn't disappointed at all. I'm among those lesser numbers who enjoyed it.

I do admit I thought I would be reading something quiet different than what the book turned out to be. And I still think the title doesn't do much to cue readers to what the book is all about. Maybe it's just that readers weren't expecting sly humor and the overall feel of a 50s detective story. Maybe it's the off-putting and deadly serious title.

I had expected to read a mystery full of intrigue and atmosphere, with dark characters walking the dark, foggy, cobblestone streets of 1920s New York. Something like Caleb Carr's "The Alienist." Something to keep me guessing and engaged.

What I got was something that gave me all that and also kept me smiling with satisfaction. What I got also was a fast-paced, smirky, quirky police romp more along the lines of "Thirty-Nine Steps" (The 1915 John Buchan adventure novel or 1935 Hitchcock movie adaptation).

The two main characters, pals Dr. Stratham Younger, just back from the Great War, and New York copper then Special Agent James (Jimmy) Littlemore are smartasses. At times, one or both made me think of William Powell in the "The Thin Man" or Cary Grant in "North by Northwest." Collette Rousseau, a beautiful French chemist who happens to be a protégé of Marie Curie, and Rousseau's young brother Luc, who was traumatized enough by the war to be made mute, round out the principal players.
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