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The Death Instinct - Jed Rubenfeld
Member Name: darren55
The Death Instinct - Jed Rubenfeld
Advantages: Keeps the reader engaged
Disadvantages: A bit too much of the fists and bullets and not enough storyline
The Death Instinct is the follow up novel from an Interpretation of Murder by American author Jed Rubenfeld following on from the successful merger of fact and fiction in the Interpretation Rubenfeld once again uses the fictional Dr. Statham Younger to investigate a real life event.
Dr. Statham Younger
Dr. Younger is a veteran from the First world war, he is tall good looking and an advocate of the Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, he is also a practising medical doctor and not afraid to get into the nitty gritty of a criminal analysis. He is also prone to acts of violence and a bit of a ladies' man; however, he does try to lead his scientific life along the lines of Freud and his disciples.
The Death Instinct
The Death Instinct begins with a terrorist attack on Wall Street on September 16th 1920, a horse and cart was left outside the JP Morgan bank and exploded killing many and injuring more. To this day, the precise culprits have never been identified; I'm not giving anything away here because the crime is mentioned on the very first page of the prelude where the author states exactly that. To be honest I'd never heard of the explosion but I'm not American and don't know if the event has more national significance to the teachings of history in American schools.
The book truly begins with Younger meeting a beautiful French radiologist specialist called Collette; they had met in 1917 during the war where they had become friends but nothing more. Collette has a mute brother who follows her everywhere; his muteness appears psychological rather than physical. The pair witnesses the bombing and this brings them into contact with the third main character in the book, the New York detective James Littlemore. Littlemore is honest, family orientated but still ambitious, he needs promotion to pay for a sick daughter.
The novel is strange is some ways because the books first couple of chapters introduce the main characters then has a thirty interlude where the author chronicles the how and where Statham and Collette meet during the war. This is a bit of an aside in some ways, the desire to introduce the beautiful French woman is an obvious one and does leave the reader wondering if all French girls are beautiful and classically trained. This need to show us why Statham and Collette are friends and intimate though not intimate enough for Statham is a storyline which appears at the start to be the main core of the book but the book slowly moves away from the star crossed lovers approach and into a standard murder mystery thriller.
The confusion really begins with the long section on Statham and Collette then switches almost completely for the middle third of the novel focuses almost exclusively on the actions of Det. Littlemore. Through his eyes we investigate the case as a modern piece of investigatory police work, through it all we are clearly given a viewpoint of the author on the bombing in 1920.
The book introduces a lot of peripheral famous characters, Freud is a solid part of the novel popping up throughout as does the famous scientist Marie Curie, we also meet senior American politicians of the era and there is a sense that these characters are thrown in to appease a sense the author has of needing to pepper his work with famous names.
The book rather dawdles for the third quarter, yes we are given information about the crime there is an extended sequence in Prague and the facts of Collette's past are laid open. The novel finally switches back to New York and the author through Littlemore and Younger presents a nicely tied up case for the ultimate men responsible for the bombing.
My main issue is whether the author knows the book he wants to write, on one hand it's a pure beat-em up crime thriller with plenty of juicy fights and intrigues. On the other it tries to give the impression of a modern retelling and reanalysing of a famous historical unsolved act of terrorism. Through it all the reader struggles to like Statham Younger but warms to Det. Littlemore, by the end this reader wanted more on Littlemore and wasn't really interested in the machinations carried out by a man of science. Finally there is a sense that the introduction of Collette as the beautiful French girl with a confused past and a desire to prove that women are more than just a pretty face and a shapely figure is more a literary add on than a real needed part of the book.
If you enjoyed the first novel, you will enjoy this novel and I would include myself in that list. Would I buy the next? Probably if I was walking through a airport departure lounge on my way to a hot sunny holiday and wanted a book to read whilst sat near the pool, otherwise I might wait until I spotted it in the library.
Summary: A decent but not brilliant novel