Interpretation of Murder

The Freud Murder Thriller

The only Freudian New York Murder Mystery Worth Reading

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In "The Interpretation of Murder," a novel written by Jed Rubenfeld, Sigmund Freud is seen on his 1909 visit to New York City as he admires the skyscrapers and takes satisfied pulls on his cigar.  While visiting a museum, he asks where the bathroom is.  

In a very Freudian way, Freud quips that he will probably have to make his way through miles of never ending corridors and that a marble palace will be at the end of it.

Mr. Rubenfeld certainly deserves credit for his jocular and smart approach to this very elaborate undertaking.  It is no ordinary pop culture sensation that he has created.  The book he has written is a psycho-historical, research-fueled Shakespearean thriller that aspires to Da Vinci Code type proportions, which is what makes this such an original and bizarre hybrid.   

When a character in the book announces his intentions of planning to study simultaneously detection, psychology, and Elizabethan drama, the reply is that the combination of interests is absurd and that it won't be taken seriously by anyone.

However, those are the interests that Mr. Rubenfeld has.  The combination of them is what constitutes the horse pulling the cart that is “The Interpretation of Murder."  First came the scholarship.  Next came the important psychological characters, including Hamlet, Freud and a woman based on one of the most famous of Freud's patients.  

Then there is the breathless murder plot coming next, which incorporates all of the elements.  Then the icing on the cake is how psychoanalytical constructs are shamelessly played with.  One character talks about how if he could find a girl who was just like Mom that he wouldn't hesitate to marry her. This was coming in a book where the Oedipus complex is kept in mind constantly.

In Mr. Rubenfeld's prologue to the book, he links it to real mysteries that surrounded Freud's only U.S. visit.  He was accompanied by what appeared to be a celebrity entourage (which included Sándor Ferenczi, Carl Jung, and Abraham Brill, who was an American pioneering psychoanalyst and English translator for much of Freud's writings) when he went to Worcester, Massachusetts to visit Clark University where he delivered a groundbreaking lecture series.  He became embittered by the end of his visit and spoke of Americans later as savages.  So what happened to cause him to feel this way?

This question really can't be answered by “The Interpretation of Murder."  What it does do is imagine a pre-New York City, pre-Worchester interlude, with New York City in the tight grasp of a Freudian intrigue.  This book starts with Freud arriving in the city; then it quickly cuts over to an upscale, candlelit bondage scene.  The victim's throat has a white silk tie around it.  

Mr. Rubenfeld has to grapple with warring impulses of his characters as well as his own.  He has, on the one hand, worked very hard at weaving together real life facts regarding the place and time of the setting of his book.  On the other hand, his eagerness to achieve formulaic success results in him cramming his book full of action sequences, and many twists and turns.  The lurid does have some historical basis (for a real literary prototype of this see "Ragtime," however it doesn't legitimize the amount of contrivance that is used by Mr. Rubenfeld for pasting it all together.

The book's narrator is a fictitious and fledgling analyst whose name is Dr. Stratham Younger.  Although Mr. Rubenfeld uses him to link to that time's high society in New York (he belongs to the Schermerhorn and Fish families), he is still an accessible and inviting character.  

Younger is completely awestruck by Freud.  He is very eager to do whatever his master bids him do, including psychoanalyzing a shrink-resistant and beautiful victim of hysteria.  In reply to one of his many dutiful questions she says, "nothing comes to mind.  I believe that is what it means to have amnesia."

When this book is at its best, it makes similar teasing uses of other Freudian tenets. (At one point Younger finally wants to kiss the woman and confides with the reader that he doubted that he was in the throes of a counter-transference.) 

This is where the authority that Mr. Rubenfeld has over his material is such a big asset.  As an example, he is able to set up deductive fastidiousness that is truly Holmesian in nature very comfortably applies some of his new doctrines.  At one point, while attempting to win the approval of Freud, Younger proclaims that she is unable to speak; therefore, something unspeakable must have been done to her.

Both Jung and Younger are engaged by Mr. Rubenfeld in Oedipal maneuvers with Freud.  In Jung's case, real ammunition is deployed on both of the conflict's sides.  The book draws on published sources such as the two men's writings and letters in order to illustrate the tension that existed between Jung and Freud, even using the father-bashing, a rather embarrassing claim made by June that Freud was actually incontinent.

Of course, Mr. Rubenfeld is running the risk of making these psychiatric giants appear like characters in a Woody Allen humorous essay. 

“The Interpretation of Murder” is an eclectic mixture of sinister aristocrats, ravished damsels, architectural wonders (construction of the Manhattan Bridge), Hamlet-Freud connection, hysterical symptoms, and wordplay that is downright criminal.  As a result, it creates it own unique brand of excitement.  This excitement is both peculiar and palpable.  Too much homage is paid in this book to templates of contemporary suspense. However there are still reserves of deep anecdote, wit, data and insight that is ingeniously drawn on by the author.

The contemplation of psychoanalysis is also interesting, starting with its initial impact all the way through its enduring legacy.  Freud's observation on America is that they should be banned by a Puritan society.  Jung replies that America will ban you, just as soon as it can figure out what you're saying.

Description of the mystery novel

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Adapting an emotional story integrating individuals like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and many other influential American politicians and elite. The story is a vibrant textual adventure, a story that becomes a gripping and compelling experience that requiring a discerning reader. The narrator understands how to utilize his voice to bring a diversity of races and cultural classes to life. He is able to grasp the innate smartness of the working-class detective in their unique expressions. He can easily bring to life the possibility of a renown medical examiner as a threatening zealot.

He truly stands out is in the variety of psychometricians who drive Rubenfeld’s tale of death and psychosis down its particular road. Freud is an individual of certain enchantment and imagination; Freud’s pupil Jung is sharp, shrewd and unmistakably jealous; and storyteller Dr. Stratham Younger is stable and appreciative of younger Freud, who is likewise slightly suspicious about some of the Viennese speculations.

This makes for easier reading as it helps the audience through some of the narrators extended soliloquies about life and building design in a 1909 New York city—passages the readers had the opportunity of scanning through without overlooking any important nuances of the story.

Interpretation of Murder – The Freud Murder Thriller

I managed to hit upon a premise. It was a premise that allowed the book to be described in a sound bite. It became the Freud murder thriller.

I knew about a real life mystery that surrounds Sigmund Freud’s one and only visit to the United States. He came here in 1909.

By all objective measures, he had a tremendously successful visit here and yet he spoke of his trip to America as if it scarred him in some way and no one knows why. The Interpretation of Murder fills up that imaginary space.

New York city in 1909 is a place of fantastic change. Skyscrapers are being built. Motorcars are replacing horses and into this city walks Sigmund Freud. But the very next day he gets drawn into a murder case which becomes quickly a psychoanalytic case and the reason why is because the second victim doesn’t die. She survives the attack, but she’s lost her memory and it turns out she’s suffering from a kind of hysteria. The kind of hysteria that Freud is the first to diagnose and treat with psychotherapy.

Two of the most important scenes in the Interpretation of Murder take place here. Not the solid tour, but below that where they sunk the foundations for this great tower. They had to build what they called a caisson. It was like a great big Diving Bell like the size of a building. When they would do the dynamite and the excavating then when the men came up out of that bridge they began to suffer from terrible illnesses which killed many of them and crippled many others.

The hero of the book is Dr Stratum Junger who is one of the first Americans who sees some of the importance. Some of the great importance of Freud’s ideas.

The book traces the simultaneous investigation by the police from the murder on the one hand and the psychoanalysis of the victim Nora on the other. Until these two methods of investigation converge.

About 90% of the dialogue that Freud and Jung speak is taken from actual books, essays, letters that they wrote.

I dug through thousands of new paper articles and lots of books so that I would make New York City of 1909 as real as I could possibly make it.

When you look at the scene of New York City in 1909 you’re looking at the foundation of the modern American life as we would come to know it.

High society changed from a quiet aristocratic crowd to a fusion of scandal and power and money as it is today. Into this, city walks Sigmund Freud with his own scandalous ideas about sexuality, ideas that would change America and influence it. So this mixture of America changing its face and the new ideas that would change modern American society this is what I was trying to capture, at least in part, in the Interpretation of Murder.

– Jed Rubenfeld