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Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn – a review

My latest read was Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn, and I can honestly say it was one of the best books I’ve read all challenge.

It is based around a street is 1960’s America where Kat is brutally stabbed and raped. This is witnessed by various people in the area. Pat with the dying mother, Thomas who is about to kill himself, Frank who is a black man who goes out looking for a push chair his wife thinks she has hit with their car, the policeman who tries to frame him for the beating of a man who is trying to blackmail him, David and John a pair of ambulance drivers, and two couples having their first attempt at swinging.

All these people see what happens to Kat but no one does anything about it, all assuming someone else will. The story starts with Kat and returns to her every few chapters whilst the other characters stories intermingle throughout.

I thought although this was violent and disturbing in equal measures, it was a fantastic read, with clever plot that made me not want to put it down (I had to have that extra glass of wine in the bar as I didn’t want to have to stop reading!) It covers a huge range of moral issues, paedophilia, war, rape, homosexuality, racism, euthanasia. Each character has something they deal with over the few hours this story is told as they intermingle with each other.

This book reminded me a little of the Armistead Maupin series Tales of the City I read many many years ago. It had a claustrophobic air to it that makes you want to scream ‘ring the police’ at the self absorbed characters letting a woman die on the street. Everyone is to blame in part, from the person who stabs her to the one who ignores her cries for help.

It wasn’t until after I’d finished reading that I realised this story is based on a true  murder that happened in the 60s. This may have slightly slanted my opinion of the book if I’d known before, however what makes this book even more outstanding to me, is that I imagine this could easily happen nowadays. No one is ever without a mobile phone yet how many people would actually stop and help someone? Would people even notice, or just be too self absorbed in their own small worlds to even look up from facebook?

This book was a great story, told at a good pace, that was cleverly written. It was also depressing and thought provoking. One completely random act and everyone in this street were changed in some way and nothing in their lives was ever the same again.

Everyone should be made to read this novel, and think how would they want to be seen to act in these circumstances? The challenge of course is to act that way!

On a lighter note, it now means I have completed two full sessions, America’s got talent which is where this sits, and Deadlier than the Male, which I am really looking forward to, so my own challenge continues!.

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Filed under book review, Crime writing, Theakstons Festival