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The Interpretation of Murder

by Jed Rubenfeld

This is a great thriller set in New York in 1909 – the year that Sigmund Freud, accompanied by his student, Carl Jung, arrived in the United States for the first time. In the preface to this book we are told that Freud, despite the great success of his lectures in the country, later spoke very negatively of the trip calling Americans ‘savages’. This has always been a mystery to his biographers. Jed Rubenfeld has seized upon the speculation that something traumatic happened to Freud at this time and concocted his own version of events with brilliant dramatic effect.
This story begins on the morning that Freud arrives in New York. The body of a beautiful debutante is discovered strangled in her penthouse. Then another member of the social elite, Nora Acton, is found tied to a chandelier, her body mutilated and her mind damaged by the assault. She has no memory of it and cannot identify her attacker.
Dr Stratham Younger is a rich young socialite and a student of psychoanalysis. A dedicated admirer of Freud, Younger asks his mentor to aid him in analysing this beautiful young victim. All three individuals - Younger, Freud and Nora - are to discover unpalatable truths.
This book is very cleverly written and terrific fun to read. Rubenfeld conveys brilliantly not only the buzz and modernity of turn of the century Manhattan but also the dark side, of brothels, opium dens and horrible murder. Wharton’s AGE OF INNOCENCE it is not.

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