An engrossing page-turner, The Interpretation of Murder breathes new life into the historical fiction genre. Thanks
to Rubenfeld’s artistry, New York in the summer of 1909 comes alive under a Manhattan skyline of electric lights,
to reveal beautiful, strangled young women and invisible, but watchful hotel maids who come up missing because of
what they know.
The novel centers around the mysterious week that famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud spent in America. For unknown
reasons, Freud never stepped foot in America again, later referring to Americans as "savages" and "criminals." Using
this "lost" week as a jumping off point, Rubenfeld uses known facts about Freud’s visit to create a murder mystery
in which he will play a significant part.
Cleverly told from the perspective of two young men, the novel is a study in observation. The seemingly naïve
Detective Jimmy Littlemore, who initially appears to be of no consequence, asks the most important question in the
novel: Where’s the maid? The other perspective is that of young Dr. Stratham Younger, an impressionable American
doctor who has dedicated his life to Freud. Despite occasional jarring shifts in point of view, Rubenfeld does well
overall in characterization. The outside perspectives cast a fun light upon Freud, who displays occasional
lightheartedness, and little-known dark insights into Jung as a womanizing, brooding protégé destined to split with
his mentor and friend.
The Interpretation of Murder has a multi-level appeal for armchair psychologists and mystery sleuths such
as myself, as well as Shakespearean and history buffs, through its use of case histories, analyses of Hamlet and
amazing historical facts about turn-of-the-century New York. From the historical perspective, Rubenfeld transports
readers to the beginnings of modernity, from the first telephone at the Balmoral Hotel and the construction of the
Manhattan Bridge, to the dark caverns of the opium dens in Chinatown. Extra little treats for gossip buffs are the
thrilling to read detailed machinations and intrigues of the famously wealthy Astors and Vanderbilts.
When it comes to this novel, don’t let the historical backdrop combined with psychoanalytic theory and Hamlet
references deter you. Rubenfeld is a master storyteller, combining these elements into a seamless new literary
form. For an exciting, suspenseful, lyrical read, The Interpretation of Murder really delivers.