SELECTED PAPERS AND SAVAGE INSTINCTS
Jed Rubenfeld's melodrama set in the New York of 1909 is a really good read on several levels. He produces a clever mix of real life characters and events and melds them with fictional characters in a puzzling complex mystery.
Elizabeth Riverford, a beautiful young debutante, is found in her penthouse apartment at the Balmoral bound and strangled. The city coroner Charles Hugel is put in charge of the investigation by the Mayor George Brinton McClellan junior. [McClellan is the son of the civil war general]
Sigmund Freud, accompanied by his disciple Carl Jung, has just arrived in New York prior to travelling to Clark University at Worcester, Massacusetts to give a series of lectures. He is asked to examine and treat the young Miss Acton as it is believed that some kind of hysteria has caused her symptoms. Freud designates one of his followers a young American colleague Dr Stratham Younger to attend to Miss Acton.
Charles Hugel brings in Detective Jimmy Littlemore to help with his investigation into the Riverford murder, and Littlemore and Younger begin to work together as the book proceeds, and become joint investigators into the mystery.
George Banwell, the owner of the Balmoral, a friend of the mayor is a suspect, but there a many red herrings in the plot. Banwell's firm is building the Manhattan Bridge, which plays a major part in the action.
If you have not studied the period you will be surprised reading the author's notes that so many of the book's incidents were real life events.
But nothing in the story is quite what it seems, and as one layer of mystery is peeled away, we find a fresh series of events to puzzle us.
Rubenfeld frankly gives us too much to absorb, a crime novel with numerous suspects and a love interest, a social history of Manhattan, a treatise on the origins of psychoanalysis, and on top of this an essay on Hamlet.