Michael Johnston's Reviews > The Death Instinct

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
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M 50x66
's review
Jul 27, 2011

really liked it

This was a really enjoyable piece of historical fiction. I thought it was a taut and interesting melding of real events and people (the 1920 Wall Street bombing, Sigmund Freud, members of Woodrow Wilson's cabinet, etc.), psychological investigation and wonderfully creative crime story. Part Sherlock Holmes, part alienated Holden Caulfield, the duo that sets out to solve the mystery of the Wall Street bombing are fascinating, and brilliant, but at least one is psychologically damaged from his experiences in WWI. Although the back story is fictictious, the issues and characteristics surrounding the story's main event - the terrorist bombing - deal with many of the psychological and moral issues of 9/11 giving the story a more modern feel.

The book has surprise plot twists, evolving Freudian theory (from Freud himself, no less!), and an interesting rhythm. It also starts off with a bang:

"The church bells struck twelve. With the final, sonorous note still echoing, a curious taxi driver drew back one corner of moth-eaten burlap and saw what lay beneath. At that moment, among the jostling thousands, four people knew that death was pregnant in Wall Street: the cab driver; a redheaded woman close by him; the missing pilot of the horse-drawn wagon; and Stratham Younger, who, one hundred and fifty feet away, pulled to their knees a police detective, and a French girl.

The taxi driver whispered 'Lord have mercy.'

Wall Street exploded."

Great start and a great read throughout.
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Kumar Well, you can't argue that the opening was really enrapturing.

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