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The Interpretation of Murder Paperback – 15 Jan 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review, London; 1st Paperback Printing edition (15 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755331427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755331420
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Currently the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law at Yale University, Jed Rubenfeld has been described as `one of the most elegant legal writers of his generation`. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and two daughters. His first novel, THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER, published in thirty-six territories, was the bestselling UK adult paperback title of 2007, and winner of the Richard and Judy Bookclub. THE DEATH INSTINCT is his second novel.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Experienced readers of crime and thrillers tend to stifle a yawn these days when they encounter a mountain of hype about a new book or author. But the fevered word of mouth that has been generated by Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder is, for once, justified. This is a remarkably ambitious book, taking on a powerful suspenseful narrative, assiduously researched historical detail and a brilliant evocation of time and character. It's not surprising that the book has already been sold in 20 different countries, and is already something of an international publishing phenomenon. The secret, of course, is in plotting, and few carry this off as adroitly as the author does here. But there is some wonderful historical detail here also, and a conjuring up of real-life characters that is very intelligently done.

Despite the outward success of his visit to the USA, Sigmund Freud always spoke as if some trauma had befallen him there. He blamed the country for physical ailments that afflicted him long before his visit. Freud’s biographers have been bemused by his reaction, wondering whether some terrible unknown event might have happened in America that could explain this. The Interpretation of Murder is strikingly written literary thriller constructed around Freud’s American visit. An attractive young debutante is discovered bound, whipped and strangled in a luxurious New York apartment and another society beauty narrowly escapes the same fate. But nothing about the attacks--or the victims--is as it seems.
--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'A spectacular debut... fiendishly clever... a fascinating recreation of a golden age in which much of the New York of today is recognisable' (Guardian)

'Rubenfeld writes beautifully, his style skillfully evoking the period, as he weaves all these threads into an intriguing mystery with a fascinating glimpse into the early days of psychoanalysis' (Sunday Telegraph)

'An unusually intelligent novel which entertains, informs and intrigues on several levels' (The Times)

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Johnnybluetime VINE VOICE on 10 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I think 3 stars is just about right for this book.Set during Freud's visit to New York around the turn of the last century it works reasonably well,but the writing is at times very clumsy and uninvolving.Every now and then the narrative stops and the author presents us with a great slab of description of a building or a large chunk of local history.That apart,it's a reasonable plot, although not one that will tax your intelligence too much,and the characters are fairly well drawn without ever being compelling.

I have to say that Caleb Carr did this sort of thing far,far, better in The Alienist,where he manages to work both period detail and a brief history of psychology fairly seamlessly into a far better narrative.Given that both books are set in New York in similar periods and with similar protaganists I would certainly recommend Carr's book over this one any day.

Another triumph of marketing over talent I'm afraid,but reasonably diverting nevertheless,although I wouldn't really recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
From the moment I opened this book and read the first few sentences I was enthralled and captured. The writing has an energy and pace that never lets up, and the plot is wonderfully various and intruiging. Based on a real visit that Freud paid to New York, this posits fictional happenings that partly explain his lack of enthusiasm for America. Freud is not diminished by this book and his conversations with Jung (which led to a later estrangement between them) are taken from the letters they exchanged. Jung, it has to be said, may be felt to emerge from this novel as the lesser man.

Stratham Younger, a young American early adherent to the Freudian cause, is the main protagonist. He has an endearing mixture of naivety, hopefulness and seriousness. He is much exercised by the problem of Hamlet - why does he not act earlier in the play, and could Freudian psychiatry explain some of the machinations he goes through? Along with this fascinating pairing of Freud and Hamlet, we have an exciting murder mystery, which bears great fruit in the form of much female `hysteria'. It is a delightfully dark mystery involving puzzling psycho-dramatics (not the least a sadist on the loose) and a satisfying fiction with factional overtones - all in all a decided success.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tom Strugnell on 11 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was recently selected by my local Book Club, so I more or less had to read it. The title and subject including Freud's only visit to New York in 1909 are intriguing and I read through the first two hundred pages or so fairly quickly. The book then goes haywire and loses all credibility. The plot becomes convoluted and at times almost ludicrous, the characters shallow and unbelievable. The narrative darts from one situation to another, I could hardly keep up with what was happening. It is a shame because the descriptions of the New York social scene and the construction of the Manhattan Bridge are interesting. I am afraid overall I found this a disappointing read about three hundred pages too long.
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88 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Gajic on 7 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
OK I'll admit it I'm a fan of the Richard and Judy book club! When I heard the review of this book I knew that I would have to read it, as it deals with three of my favourite things: - Freud, Murder literature and New York (not necessarily in that order). The author is the current Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law at Yale University. At Princeton he wrote his senior thesis on Freud and at the Juilliard School of Drama studied Shakespeare. Both of these influences are clearly seen in this his first novel. The title is a play on Freud's famous work `The Interpretation of Dreams', the central character Nora, is modelled on the case study of `Dora' and many references are made to the Oedipal explanation of Hamlet.

This book is a work of fiction, but there are some historical truths. Freud did indeed make his one and only visit to New York in 1909, along with Jung. His biographers have long puzzled over the trauma that must have happened there as he refused to speak about it and in fact labelled Americans `savages'.

The story begins with Freud's arrival in New York, the very next morning a beautiful heiress is found bound and strangled in her apartment. The following night another, Nora Acton is discovered bound and wounded, but still alive. The attack has left her unable to speak or remember anything about her ordeal. Freud and a young American, Stratham Younger are enlisted to help Nora Action recover her memory in order to catch the killer.

Being a thriller, the story has numerous twists and turns and, of course, the obligatory twist at the end. However, along the way it beautifully blends fact and fiction, psychoanalytical theory and a vibrant picture of New York society and history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Simon T. on 16 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Reading this book is like watching a Sunday night ITV drama, it's easy going, mildly distracting, you'll probably stick it out to the end if you start, and features some rather cliched plot points and characters.

However, once you're finished, it's instantly forgotten.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve D on 19 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
Set in 1909, this novel is a mix of actual and fictional events. Taking the real-life visit of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to the US it jumps off into a murder mystery using Freud's theories as a basis for uncovering the truth. It is his young American 'disciple', Stratham Younger, who is the main protagonist of the novel. Through his somewhat tenuous links to one of New York's upper class families, Younger's attendance at a high society ball results in him being pushed in front of the city's mayor and told of an attack on the teenage daughter of one of the mayor's good friends. Since the attack, the traumatised daughter has been unable to speak, and it is suggested that Younger's (and Freud's) methods might be able to help.

Running parallel to this, a young detective, Jimmy Littlemore, is called upon by the city coroner to assist in the investigation of the murder of a debutante, the circumstances of which seem to link it directly to Younger's own case.

I've read a fair bit of negativity towards this book and, for sure, it is quite clunky in places. It's unique selling point - the presence of Freud and Jung as characters involved in the story - is, to my mind, a nonsense. There is absolutely no need for them to be involved, or to even appear, in the story. Yes, one of Freud's theories is particularly relevant, but does he really need to be present for it to be so? No. That Freud's presence is pushed so hard is daft, because he doesn't actually appear that much. Even in the author's notes, Rubenfeld observes that most of his dialogue is taken from Freud's own papers. It's a bizarre choice which, to me, just indicates the author wanting to show off the research he'd done. Remove this sub-plot and it would have been a tighter, better novel, in my opinion.
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