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The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel Hardcover – September 5, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080988
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It has been said that a mystery novel is "about something" and a literary tale is not. The Interpretation of Murder has legitimate claims to both genres. It is most definitely about something, and also replete with allusions to and explications of Shakespeare, to the very beginnings of psychology, to the infighting between psychoanalytic giants--all written in a style that an author with literary aspirations might well envy.

In 1909, Drs. Freud and Jung visit Manhattan. They no sooner arrive when a young socialite is murdered, followed by another attempted murder, bearing the same characteristics. In the second case, the victim lives. She has lost her voice and cannot remember anything. The young doctor, Stratham Younger, who has invited Freud to speak at his University, soon involves Dr. Freud in the case. Freud, saying that Nora's case will require a time committment that he does not have, turns her over to Younger. The rudiments of Nora's case are based on Freud's famous Dora, complete with sexual perversions, convoluted twists and turns and downright lies.

That is just one of the myriad plot lines in the novel, all of which are intricate, interesting and plausible. All it takes for all of the incidents to be true is a great deal of bad will--and it is abundant here! There are politicians who are less than statesmen, city employees at work for themselves and not the city, doctors who will do anything to undermine Freud's theories, thereby saving the neurotics for themselves, and opportunists at every level of society, seeking psychological or material advantage. Carl Jung is portrayed by turns as secretive, mysterious, odd, and just plain nuts, while Freud remains a gentleman whose worst problem is his bladder.

Not the least interesting aspect of the book is all the turn-of-the-century New York lore: bridge building, great mansions, the Astor versus Vanderbilt dustup, immigrant involvement, fabulous entertaining, auto versus carriage. Despite the tangle of tales, debut author Jed Rubenfeld finishes it with writerly dexterity--and the reader is sorry to see it all end. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

The search for a serial killer during Sigmund Freud's 1909 visit to New York City, his one trip to the U.S., propels the plot of Yale law professor Rubenfeld's ambitious debut. Freud's arrival coincides with the sadistic murder of a beautiful young woman in an upscale hotel. A similar attack on another woman results in the victim's hysterical paralysis. The efforts of Dr. Stratham Younger, a protégé of Freud's, to recover the survivor's memories of her assailant lead Younger into a morass of politics, big money and kinky sexual escapades. Freud plays a background role, but the father of psychoanalysis does get to expound his ideas, demonstrate his diagnostic acumen and don an apparent martyr's robe. Readers will learn much about Freud's relationship with his then-disciple Carl Jung, the building of the Manhattan Bridge, the early opponents to Freud's theories and the central problem posed by Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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!
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By sockhopper on July 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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