The Death Instinct – falls short

The Death Instinct (Freud, #2)

The Death Instinct” has a very very captive first paragraph. Here is the snippet.

“Death is only the beginning; afterward comes the hard part.

There are three ways to live with the knowledge of death……The first is suppression: forget it’s coming; act as if it isn’t……The second is the opposite: memento mori. Remember death……The third is acceptance. A man who accepts death – really accepts it – fears nothing ……All three of these strategies have something in common. They’re lies. Terror, at least, would be honest.

But there is another way, a fourth way. This is the inadmissible option,…….All it takes is instinct.”

This is a four part novel which primarily deals with the bombing in New York’s Wall Street in 1920, Sept 16th to be exact. There is also a side story to it. The story of Colette, a radio chemist and wing woman of Madame Curie.

Story A:

In the busy Wall Street of New York on Sept 16th 1920, between the Treasury building and the J P Morgan bank, there is a wagon load of bomb that explodes. The NY cop James Littlemore aka Jimmy along with Stratham Younger (Littlemore’s long time friend) and Colette Rousseau (whom Younger is in love) have a narrow escape. Littlemore, being the good cop and trying to follow the rules to maximum level and not becoming corrupt , being a good husband and father gets involved in solving the case. To his surprise, Morgan Bank starts operating the next day as if the bombing never happened. He digs at more witnesses from the scene and finds out that the Treasury holds gold some of which has gone missing on the day of the bombing. Everyone is blaming the Anarchists but Littlemore has his doubts. The more he digs , the more shady it becomes and he is drawn in to the web of lies, drama and treason that is almost synonym with politics.

The bombing that took place on Sept 16th , the same day as the Mexican Independence has any relevance to that fact ?

Who would benefit with the lost of almost 4 million worth of gold : Bankers, Politicians, Terrorists – who was behind it ?

Is the bombing related to the gold theft , if so then why did it go off near the Morgan Bank ?

Story B:

Someone is trying to kidnap and kill Colette Rousseau, whom Younger first met during his time @ war where she was operating the X ray machines to help victims of war. She has a brother Luc, who remains mute (even though its more psychological than physiological). Their parents were killed by Germans during the war and after that incident Luc stops talking. Colette is trying to find a guy in Austria named Hans Gruber who is current lodged in a jail in Vienna. She is in America to help get funds for Madame Curie for her research in Radium, which has become very costly in the recent times. In between there are three red headed women, who are trying to get Colette’s attention desperately and all of them have a bulging in their throats which looks like an additional head grown out of their necks. Younger introduces Colette and Luc to Freud to help Luc get better.

What do these redheads want from Colette?

Why does someone want Colette dead in America , even though this is her first visit?

Why is she persistent on meeting Hans Gruber, so much so that she rejects Younger’s proposal?

What is the actual psychological issue that is plaguing Luc rendering him mute ? Can Freud find it out ?


Intersection points of these two stories:

a) Younger : friend of Littlemore, helps him in his investigation with his medical knowledge at times.

b) Brighton: who is the one who can help Colette in getting the necessary funds for Madame Curie to secure enough Radium and who is also interested in the oil wells in Mexico which might have something to do with the bombing


When compared to “The Interpretation of Murder“, this one is less psychological in nature. Freud’s theories are less here and its more of a political drama-mystery. But again it is evenly balanced with the Radium based story of Colette also. Wondering why those two were clubbed even though they hardly intersect except in a very few places. Freud’s theories and Colette’s past isn’t all that it is made out to be. Sure it was a betrayal of trust, but that by itself could have been a different subject altogether (would have been a smaller book then). Again, Younger is more of a friend, lover and a detective than a psychoanalyst. I was wondering about what happened to that girl from the first book. Thankfully he gives a short background story for that. He is useful in his own way in many places, with his knowledge of science and useful to both Littlemore’s story and Colette’s story. I should say I was more impressed with Littlemore than Younger in this book :). And this is more of a detective story and definitely not worthy of “Freud 2” tag. Sorry about that…

If you see this as a  detective story with all those historical facts put together in a fiction, it is really very good. The way Littlemore goes about solving the mystery is very nice and captivating. Since the story also has to support Colette, it does digress and that is a little disappointing. If they had collided in one point then it would have made some sense, but even the place where they meet is too weak. I guess, I had a different kind of expectation after “The Interpretation of Murder”.

Of the two, I would rate the first book higher than the second.

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