Customer Reviews for

The Death Instinct: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Heartwreching and Heartpounding!

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a blast rocked the Financial District in New York City. To date, this crime has remained unsolved, but it is most often attributed to Galleanists (Italian anarchists). With 38 people killed and 400 others injured, the blast was the mos...
At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a blast rocked the Financial District in New York City. To date, this crime has remained unsolved, but it is most often attributed to Galleanists (Italian anarchists). With 38 people killed and 400 others injured, the blast was the most horrific act of terrorism on US soil up to that point. Or was it? Dr. Stratham Younger and his friend NYPD Captain James Littlemore are in the area on the day of the blast. From the beginning, both feel there is more to this attack than meets the eye. As the story begins to unravel, their lives are on the line as they race to find out who is responsible for the attack. In his novel The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld weaves fiction and truth to create a different story of what occurred that day. With strong characters battling their own demons while wading through political and financial intrigue, Rubenfeld's novel is in turns heart-wrenching and heart-pounding. When I first started reading, I have to say that I was a little thrown off by what seemed to be innocuous bits of information thrown into the middle of the story line. When reading, it's probably a tendency to read those sections, think "huh?" and move on. After completing the novel, I realized there is a lot to be gleaned from those tidbits and nuggets that seem to be thrown into the mix with no rhyme or reason. At the end, I was still left with some that didn't seem to fit. However, when I finished reading, I had several "So THAT's why he wrote it" moments. The novel did take me some time to get into. There are sections throughout the novel where the storyline seems to drag. I was waiting for an outcome to a specific instance related in the story, and it took a lengthy time to arrive at that outcome in some instances. Overall, I really did enjoy reading Rubenfeld's novel. It is a solid story with enough intrigue and subterfuge to keep you guessing throughout. He keeps you interested by not giving information too early. It was late into the book before I started making connections for the story to play out. For me, that's the mark of a great suspense writer. This book was provided as a free review copy from the publisher.

posted by irishbookworm21 on January 15, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Fact and Fiction

Following the very favorably received “The Interpretation of Murder” with this ambitious novel using many of the same lead characters, including Dr. Sigmund Freud, and mixing the story with real historical personages and events, the author has created a historical piec...
Following the very favorably received “The Interpretation of Murder” with this ambitious novel using many of the same lead characters, including Dr. Sigmund Freud, and mixing the story with real historical personages and events, the author has created a historical piece of fiction with several mysteries intertwined. It begins with the detonation of a bomb-laden horse-drawn wagon at Broad and Wall Streets, the results of which can be seen today in the pockmarked outer wall of the House of Morgan opposite The New York Stock Exchange.

While the perpetrators of the explosion have never been identified, nor the reason for the deed exposed, the plot attempts to propose a rationale, including a cast of characters, behind it. Along the way, other themes emerge, including the horrors on the World War I battlefront, the emergence of Freud’s controversial theory of a death instinct in humans, Madame Curie and the effects of radium, kidnapping, assassins, and various other developments.

Well-plotted in a grand manner, the novel combines several genres and should appeal to a broad range of readers. It weaves into its themes mystery, thriller and history. What more can be said, except to heartily recommend?

posted by tedfeit0 on June 6, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Both my husband and I enjoyed this book immensely.

    Great plot(s), fascinating characters and a history lesson worth having. Who knew that Wall Street was blown up in 1920? Not so pleasant to realize that nothing ever really changes, though. I did enjoy seeing Big Bankers, Morgan especially, in action; Our congress as ineffectual and corrupt as ever, and realizing that Mexican oil played such a huge roll in our history.

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  • Posted February 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An Ambitious Novel

    "The Death Instinct" by Jed Rubenfeld is a fictional thriller set in the 1920's. The book centers around the historical Wall St. bombing of 1916.

    American financial center in lower Manhattan has suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation's history, an even which will change America.
    The date was September 16, 1920.

    World War I veteran Stratham Younger, NYPD Captain James Littlemore and French radiologist Colette Rosseau happen to be in the area. However, several inexplicable attacks on Collette lead the guys on a trail for buried secrets and hidden conspiracies.

    "The Death Instinct" by Jed Rubenfeld is an interesting and spellbinding book. The novel follows Stratham Younger and his friend NYPD Captain James Littlemore who are trying to find the responsible party for the 1920 Wall St. bombings.

    Mr. Rubenfeld keeps mixing up the fictional Younger & Littlemore with actual historical characters such as Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie as well as captains of industry and various government figures. The author doesn't just mix and match but uses the historical figures as well placed markers to advance the storyline and the plot. The book is meticulously researched, the post World War I era is brought to life and the shock the terror attack has caused is well described.

    The author places Younger & Littlemore at the scene of the attack, as well as Collette Rosseau, a French radiologist who studied under Madame Curie, and plunges our protagonists into a maze of twisted minds and politics (OK, I'll stop being redundant). The plot also revolves around the history of Younger and Rosseau, their first encounter and ensuing relationship and juxtaposed between the bloody World War I battlefields, war ravaged Europe and the corridors of power in Washington DC.

    As you can tell, this is a very ambitious novel. Weaving fact and fiction is always tricky especially when trying to explain Freud's theories coupled with doses of Curie's science and some good old fashioned trivia.
    It works!

    What most impressed me in this book was the confidence that Mr. Rubenfeld has in the reader. He simply doesn't write his theme but introduced ideas, some complex, while letting the reader figure out how to connect the dots.

    The facts behind the Wall St. bombing of 1920 are still shrouded in mystery. At the time Italian anarchists were blamed but no facts supported that theory.

    This book has recurring characters from Jed Rubenfeld's previous book "The Interpretation of Murder" but you need not read the books in order as the story lines are independent and the characters are reintroduced.

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