Rubenfeld ’80 pens historical thriller about a terrorist attack

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Jed Rubenfeld ’80 (Gianluca Battista)

New book: The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld ’80 (Riverhead Books) 

The author: A professor at Yale University Law School, Rubenfeld is an expert on constitutional law. He also is a novelist. As a philosophy major at Princeton, he wrote his thesis on Sigmund Freud, who figures in both his new novel and his 2006 book The Interpretation of Murder.
 
The plot: This historical mystery novel begins with New York’s first terror attack – not the one on Sept. 11, 2001, but the one that occurred Sept. 16, 1920, when a bomb exploded on Wall Street. Four hundred people were killed or injured in an event that remains unsolved. In this story that blends fact and fiction, war veteran and surgeon Stratham Younger, his friend New York police Captain James Littlemore, and Colette Rousseau, a French chemist whom Younger met during the war, follow a mysterious trail of evidence that takes them from Paris to Prague, and from the Vienna home of Sigmund Freud to Washington, D.C., in finding those responsible for the attack.
 

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Opening lines: “On a clear September day in lower Manhattan, the financial center of the United States became the site of the most massive terrorist attack that had ever occurred on American soil. It was 1920. Despite the then largest criminal investigation in United States history, the identity of the perpetrators remains a mystery.”

 
Reviews: “Numerous intriguing subplots snake out from the main story line, several of which bring such historical figures as Marie Curie, famous for her radium experiments, and Sigmund Freud,” wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly. Susannah Meadows of The New York Times said, “Rubenfeld’s novel 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.”
 
Excerpt reprinted from The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld with permission of Riverhead Books, a member of The Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) 2011 by Jed Rubenfeld.