It’s a Mystery: The Interpretation of Murder, by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of MurderDr. Younger and Dr. Freud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sigmund Freud made only one visit to America, in 1909, and author Rubenfeld uses that event to inspire his first historical novel. Budding psychologist Stratham Younger meets Freud, accompanied by Carl Jung, no less, at the pier upon their arrival in Manhattan. Near Washington Square, two beautiful young heiresses have been brutally attacked, one strangled to death, the other managing to survive. Dr. Younger, with consultative support from Dr. Freud, undertakes her treatment. The detective assigned to the investigation, Jimmy Littlemore, is also young and inexperienced, but soon discovers features in both cases that just don’t add up. It soon becomes evident that the assailant in none other than the powerful, sadistic, monumentally successful contractor who’s been building many of the city’s finest structures. The question becomes one of how to bring him down.

The psychoanalysis and the investigation dovetail, leading their proponents all over the maze which is Manhattan. Opium dens, immigrants, society dinner parties, and financial corruption all muddy the waters, and the East River itself nearly claims the lives of Younger and Littlemore. The case is an interesting one, made all the more so by the injection of real historical elements and personages. It’s also great fun hearing Freud’s own ideas about motives and causes.

A word of warning to the squeamish – there are passages in this novel that are graphically violent. It’s possible to skip over these without losing the thread.

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