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3.1 out of 5 stars
264
3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 11 March 2017
Fantastic read
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If you're the least bit interested in psychology/psychiatric history, and enjoy a decent Agatha Christie style crime puzzle, then this is a rewarding and enjoyable read.
It's not a modern-style crime thriller, though. So if you want fast-paced action you're better off with something a bit less substantial and a little less absorbed in its history and the talking cure.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical backdrop of New York society and the early progression of Freudian thinking. The scenes with Jung are delightful (especially as he and Freud seek to out-analyse each other), as is the grimy background of 'building America' which illustrates the whole story.

When you get down to the plot it's less impressive, which is why I marked this novel down by a star. In fact the plot feels as if it's really only there to let the author romp around with his interpretation of the characters and the time they lived in. The mystery has all the requisite twists and turns... but they didn't hold my attention as much as the sub-plots did!

If you want some holiday reading with a bit more meat to it than the usual crusader/holy grail tosh, then this is recommended. The price is absurdly low at the moment too, so you get a good few days entertainment for your money!

But if you prefer blood, guts, serial killers and so on, then this one isn't for you...
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on 11 March 2007
The problem with all books that are hyped by the media is that they rarely live up to expectations. This book is no exception. The idea was novel, but it needed the services of a good editor to pare away some of the apparently more self-indulgent passages. Worth reading, but wait for it to turn up second hand.
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on 10 July 2017
Going into this book, a major issue for me is that I consider Freud’s key ideas as utterly discredited for the purposes of practical analysis and this isn’t a disparate view given Psychological Science concluded 20 years ago that “there is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas." Leaving that aside, Goldberg writes a potentially interesting whodunit that gets more and more complex and convoluted as it winds its way to resolution 500 pages later.

It’s 1909 and a young society lady has been murdered and shortly after that another young beauty is assaulted in a similar manner, leaving her mute and in a state of amnesia about the attack. Dr. Younger is called in to psychoanalyse her in the hope of finding out what happened. At the same time Freud and Jung are visiting New York for a series of lectures and a mysterious triumvirate seem hell bent on stirring things up in the psychiatric world. Meanwhile the short tempered and underappreciated coroner Hugel and an idealistic detective Littlewood set about trying to solve the murder. I’m still partially baffled as to just how the denoument all fits together, but suffice to say there are multiple strands to it. Some of the protagonists’ actions simply defied belief (the trunk in the cassion in particular).

Rubenfeld comments in the post novel notes that he put particular effort into detail and world building and getting architectural and period details right. The thing is, this is a book, not a screen play, and a lot of the detail simply adds nothing to the story. What really irked me though was his endless ramblings on analysing Hamlet by referring to a myriad of different interpretations of the Oedipal complex. Firstly, I didn’t care, secondly, the complex is discredited, thirdly, I haven’t read Hamlet (Othello, Julius Ceaser and Midsummer Night Comedy, yes) and so it has no reference point for me and worst of all had absolutely no relevance to the plot.

Overall, I would just about recommend it, but it's not great.
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on 8 July 2017
A book that I wanted to read for a long time. I remember seeing it in bookshops nearly a decade ago with positive press. The interesting title and my love of detective crime thrillers made me pick up this book recently, and with the same excitement as when I first heard about it.

How disappointing! I'm sure that a lot of research went into the characters, place and time that this book was set in as expressed by the author, but it is no excuse for the content being such a bore. The crux of the story seemed weak, though not too predictable there were also no 'aha' moments. The characters were not all that likeable and the caisson scene that was meant to, no doubt, be highly exhilarating made me shake my head refusing to believe that two men could escape like that completely unscathed like in a blockbuster film.

The involvement of these famous characters like Freud and Jung seemed to be poorly balanced compared to the mystery being investigated. There was so much talk about psychoanalysis, Freud and friends that set a good atmosphere at the beginning only to feel terribly redundant by the end. There are so many details you pick up thinking there will be a use and relevance for them, only to find out it's a researched tidbit by the author (who has shifted timelines and events to fit everything into his book anyway, mixing up truth and fiction in the process.)

Not what I expected!
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on 2 June 2017
New York, 1909. Sigmund Freud, coincidentally visiting New York, nominates a young disciple to analyse a woman who has apparently lost her voice and memory after being beaten by a sadistic attacker. - an attacker also suspected of a brutal murder. A tortuous plot, and a couple of sub-plots, lead to an unexpected ending after a long and well-informed tour of filthy rich pre World War I New York..On the whole, this is a mighty fine read. The author doesn't quite capture the speech idioms of a century ago; there are a few minor errors and one or two rather gaping holes in the plot; and some of the characters are not very fully or convincingly developed. Aside from these things, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author has done a lot of research into the lost world of the New York super-rich, and despite occasional oversimplifications (and a rather hostile perspective on Carl Jung) he handles his complex project with skill and aplomb. Well worth the money..
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2010
Reading this book felt a bit like getting an education whilst also enjoying a page turning murder mystery. Although I was sceptical at first about the docu-drama effect of including real people in a fictional novel - I think it worked quite well (although I admit my own knowledge of Freud and Jung is scant). It has certainly inspired me to find out more about these characters and their theories. If you enjoyed this you may like The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (apart from this being a well told story the front covers have similar colouring so will also look nice on the book shelf!!!).
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 October 2008
This book clearly has stretched the gamut of reviewer reactions and I guess I'm going for the middle-line: at heart there is an entertaining (though completely unbelievable) plot, but it's wrapped up in so much painstaking an unnecessary detail that it becomes a little lost. This is certainly a book, in my view, which could have done with a really good edit: the long descriptions of old New York add nothing (unlike, for example, Edith Wharton or Henry James where milieu and plot are intricately intertwined); the long digressions on Hamlet are dull, derivative and a blatant attempt to add `meaning' to what is fundamentally a throw-away entertainment; and the Freudian overlay seems to me to be the excuse to add a sexual prurience that passes for intellectualism.

The writing is also quite clunky and amateurish, and the constant switching between a first-person narrator, and third-person narrative is both irritating and clumsy. So overall I think this is an average read which could have been tightened up to make it a better entertainment, but it's certainly no more than a throw-away holiday or commute read.

For a far better take on early Freud and murder mysteries, try the eminently superior Frank Tallis series: Mortal Mischief (Liebermann Papers 1),Vienna Blood (Liebermann Papers 2),Fatal Lies (Liebermann Papers 3).
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on 22 May 2009
This is a terrific book and, if we are allowed to give the author some slack after his first attempt, there are some issues he does need to address in future which others have covered in some detail.
I rated it a 4 star because I think it's a great holiday read however I wouldn't compare it to the Da Vinci Code, as some have observed.
So as a "holiday read" by which I mean something quick and easy it has all the compenents of a great mystery.
Although it can be a bit muddled at times and drift off course it is essentially a very interesting idea well presented and one that keeps the reader engaged.
Some of the naysayers should stick to their Man Booker Prize winners which I'm sure are useful for their coffee table.
Having just completed a recent Booker Prize winner's work I can only think that it, at best, flattered to deceive!!
In fact give me a flawed The Interpretation of Murder anyday.
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"America is a mistake." Entertainingly Jed Rubenfeld suggests how Freud came to believe this.

1909. New York. Freud and Jung have just arrived to deliver lectures. Meanwhile the press is abuzz with rumours of scandal, most of the details being urgently suppressed. In the capital's most plush apartment block, who killed Elizabeth Riverford in circumstances chillingly perverted? Now her body has mysteriously vanished from the morgue. Young Det. Jimmy Littlemore investigates....

The start is a stunner with its evocative description of the city at the time. Money is all. Society dominates. Some of its more unscrupulous are flamboyantly a law unto themselves - buying the allegiance of politicians, judges and police.

Littlemore, dogged and incorruptible, forever perseveres - negotiating the obstacles placed in his way by the high and mighty. I warmed to him. Feelings are mixed, though, about the novel overall. Those fascinated by the early rise of psychology and by new theories about "Hamlet" are very well served. Addicts of murder mysteries may feel progress is too often hindered by psychological discussions, the climax bogged down with explanations (some of them confusing).

Some may emerge feeling the psychologists themselves a rum lot, Jung decidedly odd.

Despite reservations, I found much to enjoy - places and characters incisively described, welcome undercurrents of humour, two possible romances further to enhance. It also intrigued how Freud felt so much out of his comfort zone amidst buildings so high, trains deep underground, a way of life where priorities seemed wrong, his theories challenged - even by one he considered his natural heir.

Appropriately there is much to think about.
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