In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her home in New York City. It was thought that up to 38 people witnessed her attack, but did nothing to help, leading to what became known as the "Bystander Effect". Debut author Ryan David Jahn was inspired by the case and in Acts of Violence brings us the fictional story of the night that Katrina Marino suffered the same fate.
This is a remarkable novel on more than one level. First, its 280 pages of narrative span only a couple of hours during one night. Secondly, it is dark, thoroughly compelling and emotionally engaging as it explores the lives of all those whose only true link is to be involved in what happened that night. "If only" comes to mind so many times when reading, as well as a feeling of violence in the reader: you really want to shake some bystanders away from what enthrals them into action for the victim. Thirdly, it provides a realistic depiction of time and place, including all its prejudices as barriers were being broken down.
Acts of Violence is effectively a series of vignettes, moving from Katrina's heartbreaking experiences to those of the otherwise engaged witnesses and back again, to the police and ambulance crew who are eventually called to the scene, sadly all too late, and to the perpetrator of the crime.
Acts of Violence is a shocking and powerful literary thriller and without doubt, the most outstanding novel I have read this year. I am sure we will be reading much more from Ryan David Jahn in the future. Macmillan New Writing have found a great talent with this author. Acts of Violence is published on 6 November in the UK (2 December in the USA and 1 February, 2010 in Canada). Don't miss it!