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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Newhart, Bob: I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This | Main | Robson, Nancy Taylor: Course of the Waterman »

Rubenfeld, Jed: The Interpretation of Murder

  

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Henry Holt © 2006, 367 pages [amazon]
4 stars

Jed Rubenfeld's smart thriller The Interpretation of Murder is inspired by a historical mystery. Sigmund Freud visited the United States only once, in August and September of 1909. He received an honorary doctorate at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he also delivered a well-received series of lectures. It was an ostensibly successful visit, yet after returning to Europe Freud referred to Americans as "savages" and acted generally as if something terrible had happened on the trip. But what? Rubenfeld has written a fictional account of Freud's visit, taking the real-life riddle of Freud's animosity to the U.S. as his starting point.

This isn't a book that will grab you by the throat, but one you'll come to appreciate instead intellectually.Rubenfeld weaves two fictional mysteries around Freud's visit. The more engaging of the two concerns the torture and murder of a young woman found in a high-class hotel, a crime whose sadistic details are soon repeated in the bedroom of a second victim. Because of the sexual aspects of these crimes, Freud and his entourage become involved indirectly in their solution, but Freud's contribution to the story is minimal. Instead, Rubenfeld's protagonist is a wholly fictional character, Dr. Stratham Younger, an American psychoanalyst who takes on the role of amateur sleuth. Rubenfeld alternates in the telling between first-person accounts told from Younger's perspective and third-person narrative.

The second, and secondary mystery in Rubenfeld's book involves Freud more directly, as it concerns an attempt by mysterious parties to sabotage Freud's reception in the U.S. But in this story too Freud himself takes a back seat. The Interpretation of Murder, that is, does not fall into the category of mysteries with crime-solving historical protagonists, such as Stephanie Barron's series of Jane Austen mysteries.

Rubenfeld's book is clearly well-researched. I was intrigued to learn that certain particulars involving one of the victims in the story come from Freud's case files. The story is also intricately plotted, and the solution of the mystery, when it finally comes, is both unexpected and complex--rather confusingly so, in fact. With one exception Rubenfeld's characters are not emotionally compelling: Detective Jimmy Littlemore, the young policeman attempting to solve the crimes despite bureaucratic opposition, was the only truly sympathetic character. This isn't a book that will grab you by the throat, but one you'll come to appreciate instead intellectually.

I might actually have preferred it if the secondary mystery, that surrounding Freud's reception in the U.S., were removed. The story would be tighter without it, and in fact Rubenfeld's account of sadistic society murders could easily stand alone without the Freudian subplots. Freud himself is largely unnecessary to the story, though I realize that his appearance in the book may be its main selling point.

As it stands The Interpretation of Murder is not perfect, but it is a smart and engaging story, and worth the read.

Review summary: Rubenfeld has written a fictional account of Sigmund Freud's visit to the United States in 1909, taking the real-life riddle of Freud's subsequent animosity to the U.S. as his starting point: despite an ostensibly successful visit, Freud later referred to Americans as "savages." Rubenfeld weaves two fictional mysteries around Freud's visit. The more engaging of the two concerns the murder of a young woman found in a high-class hotel. The second involves a plot to sabotage Freud's reception in the U.S. Rubenfeld's story is well-researched and complex--to the point of being a little confusing. His characters are not on the whole emotionally compelling. This isn't a book that will grab you by the throat, but one you'll come to appreciate instead intellectually. Not perfect, but worth the read.

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Comments

1.

the interpretation of murder is an exceptional book, that boasts a selection of elaborate characters. I particularly enjoyed the aspect of Rubenfeld talking about the interpretations of Hamlet and defining human emotions as well as the aoediopus theory. The storyline enhances this exeption book as it harbours many twists and turns, it is quite a volatile storyline abviously in a good way. This is an excellent book and clearly deserves more credit than it is given.

2.

the interpretation of murder is an exceptional book, that boasts a selection of elaborate characters. I particularly enjoyed the aspect of Rubenfeld talking about the interpretations of Hamlet and defining human emotions as well as the aoediopus theory. The storyline enhances this entertaining book as it harbours many twists and turns, it is quite a volatile storyline abviously in a good way. This is an excellent book and clearly deserves more credit than it is given.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.