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Last edited: 19/06/2021
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Jed Rubenfeld
The Interpretation of Murder
544 pages
Somewhat overhyped mystery novel with a guest appearance by Sigmund Freud. Set in NY 1909 it's basically your basic murder with some psycho babble thrown in. The period provides some interesting characteristics to the tale and it's well written overall, but the occasional use of big words just for the sake of it makes it feel a bit pompous..

The novel begins as Dr. Sigmund Freud arrives in New York to deliver a series of lectures on his – at that point – very controversial subject. Dr. Stratham Younger, an American psychoanalyst, is appointed by the university to act as liaison officer for Dr. Freud. Several key members of Freud’s group of therapists are with him, including Carl Jung, who seems to be there only as an annoying sideline and for name dropping sake.

Soon after Dr. Freud’s arrival, Dr. Younger is summoned to a case involving an attack on 17-year-old Nora Acton, daughter to two influential people in the city’s high society circles, who is of course elegant, beautifull and vulnerable..
The victim of a sadist, Nora was choked, whipped, and cut with a knife. The experience has left her with amnesia and bereft of voice. Dr. Freud offers the opinion that her case would be an excellent choice for Dr. Younger.

Predictabily Dr. Younger finds himself entranced with Nora’s beauty and vulnerability, blah, blah, blah. Nora’s returning memory proves false when she accuses the mayor’s friend, George Banwell with attacking her. Banwell is a married man and a rejected suitor of Nora’s who – she says – won’t take no for an answer. However, the night Nora was attacked, Banwell has the perfect alibi: he was with the mayor.

The mystery goes on and on and on as investigating detective Littlemore (the best character in the book) proceeds on a parallel course that turns up other, mostly seemingly pointless clues. As it turns out, Nora wasn’t the only woman attacked, tied up, strangled, and whipped in such a manner. At least one other woman was, and she’s now dead. However, her body has gone missing from the morgue.

The story progressed from the luxury hotels and high society events to the narrow, twisting alleys, and to houses of prostitution and police holding cells, those scenes filled without thousands of extras came alive.

In the afterword, Rubenfeld acknowledges using the New York City geography as he needed to, but very few changes took place. The book could have done with some more changes to it, involving and integrating the theories and person of Freud more, which would have made this a much more unique novel, and worthy of the hype, rather than the somewhat bland standard murder-mystery novel it is now..
Still an enjoyable read however!
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