Book review: Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn

Jahn Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn
(Macmillan New Writers, 2009)

This novel is on the shortlist for the John Creasey (New Blood) dagger award for 2010. By coincidence I read the book recently so have prioritised a review.

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.

I thank Karen of Euro Crime for my copy of this novel.

Other books on the New Blood dagger shortlist are Rupture by Simon Lelic; The Pull of the Moon by Diane Janes; and The Holy Thief by William Ryan. The winner will be announced on 8 October 2010.

Other reviews of Acts of Violence can be found at: It's a Crime! (very positive); The Observer (brief); The Book Bag (positive); International Thriller Writers (brief).


R J Ellory sets Book Depository competition

Ellory2 Ellory2 To celebrate R.J. Ellory winning the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010 with A Simple Act of Violence, the Book Depository is running a competition in which the prize is an iPod touch pre-loaded with 20 books.

The competition is not the usual mindless exercise but consists of 10 questions set by the winning author. The first five questions are based on Ellory's Anniversary Man and next five based on real-life serial killers – and they are sufficiently fiendish to be of a level familiar to those who attempt the challenges regularly set by Norman of Crime Scraps!

The competition closing date is 17 September 2010, and from the terms and conditions, seems to be open to anyone, world-wide. I'm not going to be entering because I haven't read any books (yet) by R. J. Ellory and I am not interested in "real-life serial killers". But the prize is certainly attractive so anyone who is knowledgeable about either of those topics might want to give this a try. Let me know if you win!

The Book Depository.

Direct link to the competition page at The Book Depository website.