Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn

Acts of Violence is inspired by a murder case in the 1960s, in which none of 38 witnesses who saw a woman being attacked did anything to help. In this novel, the woman becomes Katrina Marino, who is leaving her work as a waitress in a diner very late one night. Her car almost doesn’t start but eventually does. She drives home, just failing to see an accident that happens seconds after she drives through a road junction. When she gets home, she’s attacked in the yard outside her house. Several of her neighbours in the apartment block see or hear her cries. This novel is about them and what they did that night, as well as about Katrina herself.

The plotting is very clever, as events during this long night are told from different characters’ points of view at different times, as people go about their legal or illegal business, or have crises in their domestic lives. Gradually, a complete picture of the night builds up, and the intersections between people’s lives and motivations become clear.

Although the novel is well-written and assured in its pacing and plot — the character of Katrina in particular portrayed with warmth and pity — I did not like it. I just could not bear to read about everyone’s actions and concerns while a woman lay dying. The style of the novel reminds me of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, another book that I didn’t like while at the same time appreciating that it was well-written and sincere. I think that Acts of Violence is also a sincere book, and has a moral message, but it isn’t a book that I enjoyed reading one tiny bit. On the back cover, the novel is said to be sure to appeal to fans of Bret Easton Ellis, a writer whose books I have no interest in reading, and the style to Quentin Tarantino, whose films I have (deliberately) never seen. So, I conclude that this style and subject is simply not for me, but these comparisons may help others to decide whether or not to read this book.

Review first posted at Petrona, August 2010.

This entry was posted in Books, Crime fiction, Debut, North America, Social comment, Thriller, USA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s