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Interpretation of Murder (Rubenfeld) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
As The Interpretation of Murder races past ravished damsels, sinister aristocrats, architectural marvels (the building of the Manhattan Bridge), hysterical symptoms, a Hamlet-Freud nexus and downright criminal wordplay ("there are more things in heaven and earth, Herr Professor, than are dreamt in your psychology"; "sometimes a catarrh, I’m afraid, is only a catarrh"), it cobbles together its own brand of excitement. That excitement is as palpable as it is peculiar. In a book that pays too much homage to contemporary suspense templates, there are still deep reserves of insight, data, wit and anecdote upon which the author ingeniously draws.
Janet Maslin - The New York Times


Turning a psychological thriller with a cast that includes Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and several important American politicians and millionaires from a rich textual experience to a gripping and exciting audio event requires a reader with many skills. Heyborne knows how to use just his voice to bring a variety of nationalities and social classes to life. He can catch the inherent smartness of a working-class detective in a phrase, and can as quickly mark a pioneering medical examiner as a dangerous crank. But where he really succeeds is in the three very different psychoanalysts who move Rubenfeld's story of murder and psychosis down its distinctive road. Heyborne's Freud is an all-too-human man of obvious charm and originality; Freud's disciple Jung is cold, calculating and obviously envious; and fictional narrator Dr. Stratham Younger is a bright and admiring early Freudian who is also somewhat skeptical about some of the Viennese master's theories. This goes a long way in easing listeners through some of Rubenfeld's longer monologues about life and architecture in New York in 1909-passages that readers had the option of skimming without missing any vital nuances.
Publishers Weekly


This is a gloriously intelligent exploration of what might have happened to Sigmund Freud during his only visit to America. The tortured body of a young society woman is found in a posh New York apartment in the summer of 1909. A day later, beautiful Nora Acton is found with similar marks, only she has managed to survive the brutal attack. Freud, en route with Carl Jung to a speaking engagement in Boston, finds himself drawn into the investigation. He asks an American colleague to psychoanalyze Nora, who has repressed all memory of the attack. Meanwhile, a determined if inexperienced police detective follows another trail. Can Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts find the killer before he strikes again? Filled with period detail, this historical thriller challenges the reader to reason out the mystery. Rubenfeld (law, Yale Univ.; Revolution by Judiciary: The Structure of American Constitutional Law) shows great talent for psychological suspense and uses shifting viewpoints to build tension. Fans of Caleb Carr will adore this work. Given the publicity planned, it is highly recommended for all fiction collections. —Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ
Library Journal


Sigmund Freud and friends play Sherlock Holmes in an Alienist-style historical murder mystery. Human monsters stalk the teeming streets of early-20th-century New York City in Rubenfeld's ambitious debut. A sadist is assaulting rich society girls with whips and blades. Is the villain unscrupulous, wealthy entrepreneur George Banwell, who is mean to his horses and denies his gorgeous wife sexual intercourse because pregnancy would ruin her figure? Is it mysterious William Leon of Chinatown, in whose room one of the corpses is found? Or could Harry Thaw, notorious murderer of Stanford White, be slipping out from Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane? Freud, making his only visit to America, to lecture at Clark University, is in New York with a group of colleagues. Among them is one who seems crazy enough to be another murder suspect: Carl Jung. Carl has violent mood swings, carries a pocket revolver, lies about his ancestors and believes that he can hear supernatural voices. Freud's cohorts also include Dr. Stratham Younger, an American psychoanalyst given the job of analyzing lovely 17-year-old Nora Acton, who has survived an attack by the sex maniac but can't remember anything about it. Into this already-teeming stew, the author tosses a group of powerful grandees scheming to ruin Freud's visit and reputation, political corruption, the plight of the working poor, the coming psychological revolution, Oedipus, Hamlet and much more. Rubenfeld tends to slice and splice his chapters in cinematic fashion; Younger's first-person narration repeatedly jars with the remainder of the book's third-person perspective, often spoiling the buildup of tension. Other weaknesses include the author's failure to establish exactly who the central character is. Eventually, relying heavily on bait-and-switch, the story reaches its conclusion, giving Freud the last, prophetic word. Meaty and provocative, though also grandiose and calculated.
Kirkus Reviews




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