Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

"On a clear September day in lower Manhattan, the financial center of the United States became the site of the most massive terrorist attack that had ever occurred on American soil.  It was 1920.  Despite the then-largest criminal investigation in United States history, the identity of the perpetrators remains a mystery."  Did you know this?   Don't worry about that fifty-page rule that you can quit a book if it hasn't caught your interest by page fifty.  Jed Rubenfeld's marvelous historical mystery, The Death Instinct, caught my attention with that preface.     

Rubenfeld introduces three pivotal fictional characters into his historical setting.  Captain Jimmy Littlemore of the NYPD, Dr. Stratham Younger, and Colette Rousseau met on Wall Street just before the bomb exploded.  Littlemore took control of the scene, while Younger and Colette provided medical assistance.  Younger was a veteran of WWI, a battlefield doctor who served at the front where he met Rousseau.  She was one of Madame Curie's radiological truck drivers, the women trained to use X-ray machines and take them to the battlefields.  The meeting of those two, and the events on Wall Street on Sept. 16th, when four hundred people were killed, thrust the three of them into investigations that were pivotal to American history.

As Rubenfeld makes clear in his preface, the identities of the bombers were never discovered.  But, from the events and actual people of that era, the author spins a fascinating story.  He vividly describes the bombings and the battlefields of the war.  He paints a picture of New York, using Littlemore's description of a city on edge, "No jobs, everybody's broke, people getting evicted, strikes, riots - then they throw in Prohibition."  Sigmund Freud and Madame Curie are essential to the plot, and the background of the fictional characters.  Admittedly, I had a hard time with some of Freud's theories in the book, but the history, and the complicated mystery, involving corruption at the highest levels, kept me riveted.

Jed Rubenfeld is the author of the international bestseller, The Interpretation of Murder, a thriller involving Sigmund Freud, and the search for a killer in New York.  Now, he brings us back to the city in The Death Instinct, an outstanding, intriguing historical mystery, for those who like their mysteries meaty with facts, and complex.  It's a story that, in so many ways, will remind you of our present times.

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld.  Penguin Group (USA), ©2011. ISBN 9781594487828 (hardcover), 480p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received my ARC in order to serve as a TLC Book Tour host.

16 comments:

Kay said...

I'm really excited about reading this book. The whole premise is appealing to me and I love a good mystery that is based on actual events. Now to schedule it in....LOL.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like such a complex, thoughtful read! Thanks for pointing it out and for the great review, Lesa.

Man of la Books said...

I'm excited to read this book (I'm on the tour as well).
Great review.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Lesa said...

Kay,

And, I loved the actual events! I didn't know anything about that bombing, and some of the other incidents in the book that I'm not going to reveal. The history aspects were really my favorites. Yes, time is a problem, isn't it? I received 14 books in the mail yesterday.

Lesa said...

It was a very complex mystery, Elizabeth, but I loved the history aspects.

Lesa said...

And, I didn't spoil anything for you, Man of la Books. Can't wait to see your review.

Beth Hoffman said...

Oh my gosh ... this is a perfect gift for a friend's birthday. Thanks, Lesa, I'm going to buy it right away. I bet he will love it.

Lesa said...

Fabulous, Beth! I loved all the historical aspects about this. And, I talked to a couple other people who didn't know about the bombing or the X-ray wagons. Loved reading this!

Clea Simon said...

I just got this and wasn't sure from the beginning if I would like it. After reading your review, though, it will go to the top of the pile (after the Victorian madam whodunit you reviewed a few days ago - that one I've started! It's a blast! I love that the dead guy liked to dress up as the queen.)

Lesa said...

Clea,

I'm so glad you're enjoying India Black! Isn't it unique? Really fun book.

Now, this one isn't fun in the same way. I found the history fascinating, and I liked Littlemore and Younger. But, it was my lack of knowledge about these historical events that caused me to be intrigued by this one. If you don't like, you don't. It might not be for everyone. (But, India Black is fun!)

trish said...

I think this time period was such an interesting time. Very gritty. I see why you found this book riveting! I love when authors take real events and write a novel centered around that.

Thanks for being on this tour!

Lesa said...

Thanks for including me, Trish. You're right. It was a gritty time period, and the characters in this book needed grit to survive. Very interesting book.

Kris said...

What an interesting story, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kris. It was really fascinating.

Jen Forbus said...

O.k., I just finished my review and I came over to read yours Lesa. I just loved this book. My post doesn't come up until next week. I know I'll be recommending this to a lot of folks. I love books that really challenge me. :-)

Lesa said...

Thanks, Jen! I'll be looking forward to your review. This was different from what I normally read, and I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I don't have the energy for a challenge (grin), but I liked this one.