Jed Rubenfield’s book borrows quite a few things from the famous non-fiction book The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. To start with, the title is intentionally made to look like a spoof on the original book. The author and psychologist, Sigmund Freud is one of the characters in Rubenfield’s book. Several real characters like Carl Jung, Abraham Brill and George McClellan, Mayor of New York City appear in this fictional book.
To begin with, I liked the idea of creating a fictional story out of real-life incidents and characters. The author has a disclaimer that while some of his characters are real and some characters are fictional, the story itself is completely his imagination. Freud visited America only once in his lifetime and is said to have been disappointed with his visit. Rubenfield picked up this fact and weaved his story around it. Around the time when Freud visits America, a young woman is brutally murdered. The next day, another woman is almost murdered in the same way leading to speculations that a serial murderer is on the prowl. The second victim loses her voice and her memory of the incident and this results in engaging Sigmund Freud and our male protagonist Stratham Younger, both psycho-analysts to help the victim rediscover her voice and her memory so that she can identify her attacker. A detective and a coroner are assigned to resolve the case. While one thread about solving the case is going on, the book parallely talks about the protests and revolt against the rising fame of Freud and his teachings. Anti-Freud gang threatens Freud and his followers to abandon their visit and this adds to the mystery factor of the book. Rubenfield paints many characters in a way to make them as possible suspects and this piques the curiosity.
I could go on and on about the story since there are so many things going on about the book. The plot is brilliant. I liked the author’s idea of placing an imagined plot on real-life incidents and characters. The very fact that Freud is a character in the book increases the curiosity quotient of the book. The characters are pretty good. Younger, the main character, has enough layers to make him interesting. The detective, Jimmy Littlemore, adds some humor to the story and comes across as an intelligent and warm-hearted detective. The victim, the beautiful Nora Acton, is based on one of Freud’s patients.
The story moves pretty fast but gets complicated somewhere in the middle of the book when there are multiple threads running, all related in some way. It becomes tedious to remember the numerous names and their motives and their connection to the murder. The climax is good and fitting for a murder mystery novel. Many loose ends are left untied which thus because of which the book doesn’t give you a sense of satisfaction after reading it.
For anyone looking for a murder mystery, this is a must read. For anyone slightly interested in psychology, this book will whet your appetite slightly. If you are like me, pick up this book just because Sigmund Freud is in it.