Monday, 25 June 2007

The Interpretation of Murder by Jeb Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
Jed Rubenfeld
(Headline Review €??)

JED Rubenfeld teaches law at Yale, wrote his senior thesis in Princeton on Freud and studied Shakespeare at the Juilliard School of Drama.

The Interpretation of Murder is his perfect storm, bringing together his three obsessions.

There's a craze in America for whodunits set in Victorian and Edwardian New York, with historical characters - Poe, Freud - and on-the-spot reportage.

Rubenfeld uses the sado-masochistic scenes and opium-dreaming brothels of Victorian fantasy in a mystery to be solved by one of Sigmund Freud's bumbling coterie of psychoanalysts. (The story is based on Freud's actual visit to New York in 1909.)

It's selling awfully well, and justifiably so; it's a good read for the first half. Then it falls away, with the plot too convoluted and the villain too far from the centre.

But there are great moments - notably in the caisson where the foundations of the Manhattan Bridge were laid. And the writer enjoys himself with quotations from Hamlet, the analyst hero convincing himself that the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy is not about being, but about seeming.

It's fabulous fun, if not for all the family.

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