The Interpretation of Murder



To be or not to be...
The entire plot of Interpretation of Murder revolves around the iconic verse of Hamlet and the quest to find its true elucidation. Jed Rubenfeld's first mystery novel that swings back and forth from Shakespeare to Freudian psychology, from dream to reality, from confusion to clarity, from what it seems to what it really is.
What is the best thing about Interpretation of Murder? The intriguing combination of psychoanalysis, suspense and murder? The presence of Sigmund Freud playing a pivotal role in the plot? Or the minute description of Manhattan set in the pre-world war era? The answer is, all of them. But what got me bowled over from the very first page, is this passage.

“There is no mystery to happiness.
Unhappy men are all alike. Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn- or worse, indifference- cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He doesn't look ahead. He lives in the present. 
But there's the rub. The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning- the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life- a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them. 
For myself, I have always chosen meaning.” 


I know it is not very smart to quote directly from the book while reviewing it, but I just couldn’t help it.
I got this book from my nemesis months ago. Oh no, it was not a gift. One is never supposed to expect gifts from one’s nemesis. He lent it to me after he was done with it. I am grateful to him for letting me borrow it. Actually I am grateful to him for many things. Personally I believe it’s our enemies, but our friends who truly motivate us. And I hate him too deeply to get immensely driven by it.
Interpretation of Murder is set in 1909 when the world has only started to acknowledge Freud and his psychoanalytic theory of human behaviour. Before Freud, it was believed that only neurotic disorder caused psychiatric ailment. Terms like childhood trauma, suppressed sexuality or Oedipus complex were alien to old school medical practices. The narrator of the story is a certain Dr. Younger who is a graduate of Harvard University and a disciple of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Fortunate coincidence reaches its maximum when a young lady of a Manhattan noble family is found tortured and traumatized and another girl dead on the very same day Freud arrives in America to give lecture at a renowned university of New York. Both the girls were not only tortured but the crazy fiendish person has also left the marks of his sadistic fetish on their bodies. Will Freud and his gang of doctors be able to revive the girl? Will they be able to unravel the mystery behind it? Who is the other girl and why was she murdered? Is some dangerous  psychopath on the loose? Or is everything just one big conspiracy plot to humiliate Freud and negate his works? Meanwhile, not only Freud and his team are after the murderer, but an inexperienced but earnest detective is also on the trail. One murder is followed by another and the plot thickens. To be or not to be.
Human being is the most twisted, fucked up species on earth and Sigmund Freud spent his entire life exploring the darkest of nooks and corners of human mind. We secretly desire what is most forbidden to us. We call ourselves civilised but our subconscious is the residence of a primitive monster who finds pleasure in violence, bloodbath and forbidden sexual practices. Sometimes it amazes me that how we can love and hate the same person simultaneously with same ardent passion. Perhaps we secretly hate all the people we love so fervently. But we constantly try to convince ourselves of how normal we are, when normalcy is nothing but an elaborate illusion developed and imposed by the society. The unapologetic tone of the book will bring the reader face to face with his subconscious that will leave him both repulsed and amazed at the same time.
Interpretation of Murder is a fiction set in the backdrop of historical facts and events. Most of the characters are actual historical figures. The entire book is a frenzied roller coaster ride of suspense and intrigue that will leave the reader flabbergasted but hooked until the last page. Although I feel the climax could have been better. Also the character descriptions were pretty premature. But if one is looking for a moderately good novel with a few murders and bloodshed mixed with twisted sexual elements, The Interpretation of Murder is worth a try.

In the end of the book, a character asks Dr. Younger how Freud proposes one should overcome painful memories.
His reply?
‘By remembering them.’

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