Friday, 26 November 2010

Book Club - The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Credit must be given to Mr Rubenfeld, this novel suggests that he will not be a one-off sensation. Fuelled with research and attention to detail, it is a historical thriller with Shakespearean and Freudian focuses, as compelling and engaging as the Da Vinci Code from the off.

In 1909, Sigmund Freud arrived in New York, his first visit to America. The finer details of his Manhattan stay are clouded with mystery, but one can be sure they left a psychological scar. Freud expressed a great dislike of America thereafter, and blamed various neuroses on his sojourn in the great city.

Rubenfeld uses this mystery as the starting point for his first novel, intertwining fiction and reality. On the morning Freud arrives, the body of a young, beautiful debutante is discovered in her penthouse. Soon after, Nora Acton, another member of the social elite is found tied to a chandelier, with no memory of the assault, and unable to speak or identify her attacker.

With the assistance of Freud, Dr Younger, a student psycho-analysist, attempts to recover Nora's memory and discover her attacker.

The novel is packed with ravished damsels, power-hungry psycho-analysists, sinister aristocrats, complicated family relationships and corrupt police officers. There can be no doubt that Rubenfeld throws himself fully into his topic of choice, and has researched the setting (New York city in the early 1900s) with painstaking care. In fact, one of the novel's greatest feats is the detailed descriptions and information shared. The tour of the city is expansive and the detail about machinery, such as how a caisson works, and cultural systems in place at the time, is authoritative and a great asset. This detail could easily have made the book slow-moving and heavy, but combined with the never ending action, suspense and mystery there was no such problem.

I particularly enjoyed the combination of the detective genre, Freudian theories and literary references, as well as the spilt narration.

Although, Rubenfeld lacks some of the balance and skill of a more experienced writer, he makes up for it in his own confidence and conviction in his writing. A stylish novel full of twists and turns - but perhaps, too rushed and confusing an ending.

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