Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Death Instinct - Jed Rubenfeld

I was intrigued by the description of Jed Rubenfeld's latest book The Death Instinct:

"On Sept.16 1920, a horse-drawn wagon carrying 100 pounds of dynamite and a quarter-tone of cast-iron slugs exploded in front of the Morgan Bank and the New York Stock Exchange - in the very heart of New York's Financial district. More than 400 people were killed or injured. It was the deadliest bombing in the nation's 150-year history - and was the first terrorist attack on American soil. To this day, the reason for the bombing - and its perpetrators- remain a mystery. In The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld offers the thrilling story of what happened on that day."

My first thought was to wonder if this event truly happened or if it was a great fictional idea. Well, it really happened. Jed Rubenfeld has taken numerous factual historical events and combined them with his idea of what may have happened. Many significant historical figures are also 'brought to life' including Madame Curie, Sigmund Freud, and prominent politicos of the time.

The Death Instinct features the two protagonists from Rubenfeld's first novel - The Interpretation of Murder - (I hadn't read this one) - Dr Stratham Younger and NYPD Captain James Littlemore. I was initially enthusiastic about this pair - especially Littlemore- his powers of deductive observation reminded me of Holmes. As the story continued though, I felt I never really engaged with the two of them. We are privy to some of what drives them and some personal moments, but these subplots felt extraneous. I felt as though they were only the vehicle to get to the next piece of  the plot.

And there were many, many parts to the plot. A few too many perhaps.  I finished the book as I wanted answers to some of the more baffling occurrences put forth. At 464 pages, the story seemed too drawn out.

Rubenfeld wrote his undergrad thesis on Freud and he draws upon this knowledge to espouse many of Freud's theories. I must admit, I found them a little tedious after the first few initial analysis.

Where this novel shone for me was in Rubenfeld's historical research and his theory of what may have transpired. There are interesting parallels to today's headlines.  An okay, not great read for me.

But that's just my opinion. Check out what others thought on the TLC tour. Or read an excerpt of The Death Instinct.

(an interesting side note - Rubenfeld is the husband of author Amy Chua, whose book Tiger Mom has been making some news)


carolsnotebook said...

I have this one on my shelf. Sounds like I shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to get to it though.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds interesting. It also sounds like it could have used a little better editing. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

Ladytink_534 said...

It sounds like a neat book! The cover reminds me of Caleb Carr though. I may just check this one out.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I had no idea this was based on a true story either - it's a part of American history that is completely unfamiliar to me.

I'm sorry it wasn't a favorite for you but I do appreciate you sharing your opinion as part of the tour.