- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (Jan. 3 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594485607
- ISBN-13: 978-1594485602
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.9 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 431 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #270,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Death Instinct: A Novel Paperback – Jan 3 2012
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"A deadly terrorist attack rocks downtown Manhattan in September...1920. Rubenfeld's gripping novel revolves around the real-life Wall Street bombing and will have you enthralled from page 1."
-Entertainment Weekly Must List
""Brilliantly concocted and more than just a little eerie. The fictional and actual events surrounding the 1920 bombing are as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago."
"This novel is great ... Jed Rubenfeld's tremendous follow-up to his 2006 novel, The Interpretation of Murder, bustles with kidnapping, knife throwing, gun fighting, poisoning, bank robbery, corruption. The Death Instinct is that rare combo platter: a blast to read - you'll be counting how few pages you have left with dread, and you'll do this before you're halfway done - and hefty enough to stay with you. There's a steady beat of intrigue and confusion and explanations you wouldn't have guessed."
-The New York Times
"Intelligent, absorbing and provocative."
-The Seattle Times
"Rubenfeld's debut, The Interpretation of Murder (2006), proved his skillful use of historical detail to create a compelling tale of psychological suspense. He's only gotten better."
-Library Journal (starred review)
"Jed Rubenfeld delivers a soul-searching narrative with complex and memorable characters. Not only is The Death Instinct a suspenseful story that pulls readers into its political and scientific intrigue, it is also a provocative meditation on the psychological and emotional ripple effects of war and terrorism."
-Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow
"In The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld masterfully weaves a sweeping story that moves from New York City to Paris to Vienna and back, illuminating with shocking and harrowing clarity the aftershock effects of the Great War on an entire generation. Anyone with a taste for mystery, political intrigue, and love in desperate circumstances will devour this enthralling novel."
-Katherine Howe, author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
"The Death Instinct is a terrifically smart, tumbling roller coaster of a novel, full of mysterious twists and turns, murders, conspiracies, dreams of revenge, and ultimately a very human redemption. Beginning with one of the great unsolved crimes in American history?the 1920 bombing of Wall Street?author Jed Rubenfeld takes the reader on a fast-forward journey through the politics and police work, science and psychoanalysis of the of the early nineteenth century. The characters are so well realized, the conspiracies so wonderfully twisted, and the rendering of time and place so well done that readers will find the story hard to put down?and harder to forget"
-Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
"A well-crafted story, skillfully told, with more twists than a pig's tail, and a lot more entertaining."
-Anne Perry, author of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk novels
About the Author
Jed Rubenfeld is the author of the international bestseller The Interpretation of Murder. He is a professor at Yale University Law School and is one of the country’s foremost experts on constitutional law. He wrote his undergraduate thesis at Princeton University on Sigmund Freud. He lives in Connecticut with his family.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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"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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I'm still trying to figure out what the deal is. What is it about the book that so peeved so many reviewers? I wasn't disappointed at all. I'm among those lesser numbers who enjoyed it.
I do admit I thought I would be reading something quiet different than what the book turned out to be. And I still think the title doesn't do much to cue readers to what the book is all about. Maybe it's just that readers weren't expecting sly humor and the overall feel of a 50s detective story. Maybe it's the off-putting and deadly serious title.
I had expected to read a mystery full of intrigue and atmosphere, with dark characters walking the dark, foggy, cobblestone streets of 1920s New York. Something like Caleb Carr's "The Alienist." Something to keep me guessing and engaged.
What I got was something that gave me all that and also kept me smiling with satisfaction. What I got also was a fast-paced, smirky, quirky police romp more along the lines of "Thirty-Nine Steps" (The 1915 John Buchan adventure novel or 1935 Hitchcock movie adaptation).
The two main characters, pals Dr. Stratham Younger, just back from the Great War, and New York copper then Special Agent James (Jimmy) Littlemore are smartasses. At times, one or both made me think of William Powell in the "The Thin Man" or Cary Grant in "North by Northwest." Collette Rousseau, a beautiful French chemist who happens to be a protégé of Marie Curie, and Rousseau's young brother Luc, who was traumatized enough by the war to be made mute, round out the principal players.
The 1920 Wall Street bombing, an actual event that killed and injured 400, propels the fast-paced action and sends our characters back and forth across the Atlantic from New York and Washington to Paris, Vienna and other European locales where travel, usually bumpy, is by car, motorcycle, train and aeroplane.
Historical and political figures Curie and Sigmund Freud among them, play into the story, which is to figure out who blew up Wall Street and why.
Some of the time I felt I was reading something inspired by Damon Runyon. The books has lesser characters named Spanky, Stanky and a redheaded woman called Two-Heads who actually has what appears to be a second, smallish face sprouting grotesquely out of one side of her neck, which meant she looked pretty much okay from the other side.
There's a lot of Runyonesque banter in "Death Instinct," and maybe I'm just a sucker for glib talk and quick retorts but I really enjoyed deadpan dialogue along the lines of, "So how's it feel to be a special agent, Special Agent Littlemore?" asked Fall, taking a seat behind his desk."Must feel pretty special."
(And as a sidelight and just in case you've ever wondered, the book provides the definitive answer to why the common blowfly was put on this earth and the value the buzzing, metallic-colored pest brings to the world. The answer becomes a plot point with life-and-death significance.)
This is a thick book but a fast read. It's interesting history and intriguing storytelling. There is a heaping pile of clues to be dealt with. The plot is a tangle of threads that needs to be unraveled. Rubenfeld is very good at getting everything sorted out and put away in a manner that's as plausible as it is pleasing to read.
I normally don't like books that move back and forth between places and time too much. That's because most authors who use this device aren't as skilled at it, as is Mr. Rubenfeld. He's able to successfully weave in and out of story lines and navigate back and forth between time and events without sacraficing any of the momentum.
Don't let the title put you off. It may be called "The Death Instinct" but this book is full of life!
I really enjoyed reading it. I began with no advance information, no spoilers, no idea what it was about, never heard of the author. The story captivated me from page 1 and kept me hanging on the edge until the very end. Can't say much more without introducing at least some spoilers...
I was drawn to the book not only by the review in the Times, but also by its opening scene - the Wall Street blast of 1920 that killed many but has never been solved. Speak of starting out with a bang! Sounded very promising. But our heroes soon are being chased by stereotypical baddies - remember Bluto in the Popeye toons? Merely the leader of a trio of of cardboard cutouts - but the action's fast and furious, interspersed with languid cruises to Europe to meet with Freud, Mme. Curie, and financially embarrassed one-time members of the aristocracy who just happen to be (always) driving the cab that shows up to deliver them from whatever current dilemma they face at the moment.
The young woman is ravishingly beautiful (of course) and her admirer (whom she met on the battlefields of WWI) is handsome, wealthy, brave, good at fisticuffs and a crack shot, the last of which saves her life and nearly costs him his.
I was grateful to the author most of all for the occasional galumph, the crowning example of which occurred right at the end of the book. '"You're not the only ones," replied Younger, looking at the diamond on Colette's finger, which had once belonged to his mother.'
And vivisection, too!