The Interpretation of Murder opens on a hot summer night in 1909 as Sigmund Freud arrives in New York. Among those waiting to greet him is Dr. Stratham Younger, a gifted physician who is one of Freud’s most ardent American supporters. And so begins the visit that will be the great genius’s first–and only–journey to America.
The morning after Freud’s arrival, in an opulent penthouse across the city, a woman is discovered murdered–whipped, mutilated, and strangled with a white silk tie. The next day, a rebellious heiress named Nora Acton barely escapes becoming the killer’s second victim. Yet, suffering from hysteria, Miss Acton cannot remember the terrifying incident or her attacker. Asked to consult on the case, Dr. Younger calls on the visiting Freud to guide him through the girl’s analysis.
The Interpretation of Murder is an intricately plotted, elegantly wrought entertainment filled with delicious surprises, subtle sleights of hand, and fascinating ideas. Drawing on Freud’s case histories, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the rich history of New York, this remarkable novel marks the debut of a brilliantly engaging new storyteller.
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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 RyanAbout the Author:
Currently the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law at Yale University, Jed Rubenfeld is one of this country's foremost experts on constitutional law. As a Princeton undergraduate, he wrote his senior thesis on Freud. As the Juilliard School of Drama, he studied Shakespeare. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut with his wife and two daughters.
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