Monday, January 17, 2011

New Release: The Death Instinct

The Death Instinct follows doctor and former Freudian psychoanalyst Stratham Younger and police captain James Littlemore through a harrowing time in U.S. history as they witness the September 1920 bombing of New York's Wall Street and subsequently delve into the seamy political underbelly of the city and the nation.  They also become entangled in the fate of a young Frenchwoman, Collette Rousseau, who is a student of the famous Marie Curie.  This novel explores a historical mystery that was never actually solved and expands it to truly dastardly proportions.

Almost a year and a half ago, I read Jed Rubenfeld's first book, The Interpretation of Murder which I fully expected to love and instead came away from with mixed feelings. I just looked back on my thoughts on the book and, not surprisingly, could easily copy a portion of that review and paste it here for his second book and sequel, The Death Instinct. I say "not surprisingly" because even though I had forgotten most of the first book, as I was reading the second book, I started remembering having the same feelings before.
"I was having trouble getting through it over the past few days and I decided to power through just to find out what happened. There are many good things about the book but it just wasn't quite there for me."
"This book had a few flaws that kept me from totally enjoying it, even as easy reading. First, the characters, on more than one occasion, use sarcasm. The problem with this is that it's hard to read sarcasm."
"Finally, I just felt that the book needed some more editing ..."
As The Death Instinct features the same main character as the first book--Stratham Younger--and he was the one who frequently employed sarcasm, this remained a problem for me. His awful opinions of women also made it impossible to care for his fate as the main character. Again, I thought that the book could have been edited down more and that the historical and plot elements didn't flow together well. There were large information dumps in various parts of the novel. I found the information quite interesting but the way it was presented took me out of the story too often. This was a fascinating historical event that I knew almost nothing about.

I definitely appreciated the amount of research that must have been done to craft this story and part of me wishes that Rubenfeld had written a non-fiction about this incident instead. I gave this author a second chance with this novel because I had mixed feelings on the first one and hoped for an improvement but I think this will be it for me. I love the settings and events that he chooses but not the novels themselves.

Reluctantly moving on,

This book is currently on a TLC Book Tour.  You can read reviews with a different opinion than mine at The Lost Entwife and Rundpinne.  Other reviews will be linked up at the tour page over the next month.

Support our site and buy The Death Instinct on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received a copy for review from the publisher and have posted this review as part of a blog tour.


  1. I've just started this book and am having trouble getting into it, but maybe I need to do what you suggest and power through it in fewer longer sessions. I am reviewing it for the blog tour also

  2. At least does the author mention a few of his research sources at the end of the book? I love it when a book's setting fascinates me and then the author tells me what nonfiction to read on that very subject. :D

  3. I read the very beginning of The Interpretation of Murder a while back, and wished I hadn't. I really try to avoid authors who use the sadistic torture and murder of women to grab readers' attention.

    Interesting that you had the same thoughts about this book as you did about the first one. I couldn't get past the first few pages of his other one, so I doubt I'd get on very well with this one, either.

  4. Well, I guess you know now ... this author isn't for you.

  5. I think it's more than fair of you to give an author two tries. Interesting how you were able to pinpoint the same feelings that you had about the first book!

    Thanks for being on the tour, even though it wasn't your cuppa.

  6. Helen - That might work! Good luck and I'll look for your final thoughts!

    Jenny - It was an ARC so I'm not sure if the final copy will have references but I'm guessing not. There was an afterword that told what was taken from history and what was fiction though.

    Tracy - This one was less violent than that one (thankfully) but otherwise pretty similar.

    Jenners - Yep! But I did sort of wonder after the first one if his next book would be better and now I know!

    Trish - I purposely didn't read my review of the first book before reading the second book so it was somewhat shocking to read it afterward and see my same thoughts written over a year ago about another book!