Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn

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Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Milli Pithie
Reviewed by Milli Pithie
Summary: There is not a dull page in this unusual book; violent and angry yet delicate and fun.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 250 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Macmillan New Writing
ISBN: 978-0230743595

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Kat Marino is stabbed on her way home from work. All she wanted was a hot bath after a hard day's work. From this point the novel skips nimbly from one neighbour to the next, all of whom are absorbed in their own dilemmas. There is the draftee with a sick mother, the nurse who thinks she has run over a baby, the woman who suspects her husband of cheating and others. We are shown what these characters were doing that evening, and how these events drag through to the morning. We are shown how in the midst of their own interesting, poignant and dangerous concerns a woman is stabbed in the courtyard onto which all their windows look, through which windows they witness the attack, and how these people did nothing.

At the heart of this novel is a real psychological question based on a real incident in which a woman was attacked and none of the many, many onlookers did anything. This book takes that moment and expands it. In a way, it is a series of short stories seamlessly interlinked. Each story will grip you equally so that the constant flipping of perspective does not irritate but heightens the tension and keeps you on your toes.

Each character has a unique story, some sad, some twisted, some amusing. At times the characters seem predictable or stereotypical - oh, here comes the corrupt cop - but they aren't. There are depths and complexities to each character. This book will keep you guessing and will not fail to shock. It never slows down; it just keeps throwing stuff at you, and that is what makes it so enjoyable right up to the end.

It is brutal, as the title suggests, and the brutality seems all the more explicit with the psychological detail that accompanies it. It's definitely an adult read. Nevertheless, there are moments of sweetness and genuinely nice characters (although the novel tries to refrain from simplifying people as good or bad). These moments of sweetness or of humour balance out the depressing questions posed by the book; why are people so self-absorbed, why do bad things happen to good people and why do terrible acts of violence go unpunished?

The opening line, It begins in a parking lot, made me cringe. However, having read the rest of the book, I completely forgive Jahn for that line. The book is a great read for those interested in people, as well as those who want a crime story that focuses less on the forensics and more on the events leading up to, during and after the attack.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

You may also like Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down edited by Clive Cussler. Or, if you prefer novels to short stories, try Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses.

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Buy Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn at


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