28 May 2009

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Freud, Shakespeare and murder in early 20th century New York

This book was shortlisted by Richard & Judy’s book club in 2007, and I’d wanted to read it since last year when I first noticed it. Jed Rubenfeld is a professor of Law at Yale University and is an academic with published work on Freud as well as Shakespeare, both of whom make appearances here – Sigmund Freud is actually a character in this book, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet features as a platform to discuss the Oedipus complex.
The scholarly depth of the book does not interfere with its flow, and it is a superb detective story – fast moving and with many ups and downs, twists and turns, which keep you turning the page and in the end the villains are not necessarily the ones who have seemed most villainous. I did find that the second half of the book lost pace and became slightly disappointing.
One of the things I most enjoyed about this book are the descriptions of
New York city in the early 1900s. It was a rich and powerful city, and its various aspects, including its architecture, transportation, social and business life are described as background to the story and are absolutely fascinating.
In those days, the
New York police force was extremely corrupt – it reminded me of the situation here in my country, and made me wish that the flow of circumstances would improve things for us.
I also learnt a little about some perceptions of Jung (who also appears in the book), and the weaknesses that those in the mental-health profession are susceptible to.

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