Book Club – The Interpretation of Murder

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder  opens on a hot summer night in 1909 as Sigmund Freud disembarks in New York from a steamship. With Freud is his rival Carl Jung; waiting for him on the docks is a young physician named Stratham Younger, one of Freud’s most devoted American supporters. So begins this story of what will be the great genius’s first, and last journey to America. 
 
The morning after his arrival, a beautiful young woman is found dead in an apartment in one of the city’s grand new skyscrapers, The Balmoral. The next day brings a similar crime in a townhouse on Gramercy Park. Only this time the young heiress, Nora Acton, escapes with her life–but with no memory of the attack. Asked to consult on the case, Dir. Younger calls on Freud to guide him through the girl’s analysis. Their investigation, and the pursuit of the culprit, lead throughout New York, from the luxurious ballrooms of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, to the skyscrapers rising on seemingly every street corner, to the bottom of the East River, where labourers digging through the silt to build the foundation of the Manhattan Bridge.  

  1. Did you enjoy this book? 
  1. Why do you think the author chose this title for his book? 
  1. The author’s portrayal of women is noteworthy: Is Nora still a victim when she is empowered by a sympathetic listener? What are Clara’s motives for the events in the novel? How is Betty the maid, Susie Merrill, and Greta depicted? Do these characters reflect the turn-of-the-century society, or do they represent a more timeless portrayal of women? 
  1. Is Dr. Stratham Younger, a thirty-three-year-old Harvard graduate who teaches at Clark University and who is the narrator of the book, the right man for the job of trying to unravel the attempted murder of Nora? 
  1. Consider the role of class conflict in the book: Jung’s feelings of shame over his obvious wealth; Jung versus Freud. 
  1. What role does psychological transference and sexual attraction play in the book? 
  1. Discuss the author’s mix of fact and fiction? 
  1. Younger says, “Some people feel a need to bring about the very thing that will most torment them.” How does this describe the characters in the book? 
  1. When he boards the ship back to Europe, Freud says that “America is a mistake…. A gigantic mistake.” What does he mean?