Book Review: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

February 9, 2011


“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.

  • 480 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Riverhead Books
  • Hardcover ‏ : 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 1594487820

Buy The Death Instinct from*My rating for The Death Instinct5
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“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 story line 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.


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.

Buy The Death Instinct from*
More Books by Jed Rubenfeld*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

This post is in the 63rd
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Published at Mysteries In Paradise

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The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld


  • bookspersonallyFebruary 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting read- thanks for the review!

  • RyanFebruary 9, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I enjoyed this one quite a bit and have actually done a little more reading on the bombing since then. Thanks for the review.

    • zoharFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:19 am

      I looked it up as well, it’s very interesting. Thanks for the comment.

  • jenclairMarch 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

    I’m adding your link to my post. Although I wasn’t that taken with the book, I did like the historical bits and that is always a plus!

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