Review: Good Neighbors

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Good NeighborsGood Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn
Published by Penguin on May 31, 2011
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-half-stars

A compulsively readable debut crime novel inspired by the legendary real-life murder of Kitty Genovese. 

At 4:00 A.M. on March 13, 1964, a young woman returning home from her shift at a local bar is attacked in the courtyard of her Queens apartment building. Her neighbors hear her cries; no one calls for help.

Unfolding over the course of two hours, Good Neighbors is the story of the woman's last night. It is also the story of her neighbors, the bystanders who kept to themselves: the anxious Vietnam draftee; the former soldier planning suicide; the woman who thinks she's killed a child and her husband, who will risk everything for her. Revealing a fascinating cross-section of American society in expertly interlocking plotlines, Good Neighbors calls to mind the Oscar-winning movieCrash, and its suspense and profound sense of urban menace rank it with Hitchcock's Rear Window and the gritty crime novels of Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, and James Ellroy.

First Sentence: “It begins in a parking lot.”

Review:
In my AP Psych class, we learned about Kitty Genovese, murdered on the street in front of her New York apartment building. Though many of her neighbors heard her cries, no one helped her; no one even bothered to call the police. We learned that this is an example of ‘diffusion of responsibility,’ each witness assumes that someone else will have informed the authorities, so they don’t call because that would just tie up the phone lines. Not stepping between a woman and a madman is one thing, but not making a call to save her life, the life of a woman you’ve probably seen any number of times?

When I heard about Jahn’s novel based on this incident, I immediately added it to my to-read list, because that whole thing is so incredibly morbidly fascinating to me. So, when I was offered a review copy of Jahn’s newest, The Dispatcher, I accepted, and, when offered this one as well, I took it.

Jahn presents the idea in the form of fiction. He changes Kitty Genovese into Kat Marino. The story covers only a few hours, making use of short vignettes. All of the people involved in Marino’s murder are shown during the same timeframe: her murderer, the people in her building who heard or saw but did nothing, the people who finally found her, the ambulance drivers who arrived to take her, still alive despite many stabbings, to the hospital. I suspect this is probably the most effective way to tell this story, however I didn’t really connect to the characters.

The only people in the story I felt any sort of real interest in were a possibly forming gay couple and an older black man with a strong sense of justice. Otherwise, pretty much everyone here is either awful or boring. There’s an adulterous husband, a father who wants to murder a child rapist, and a dirty cop, trying to frame other people for his own actions.

Jahn’s writing style, while very apt for a thriller of this sort, isn’t one that resonates with me. He uses primarily short sentences and makes heavy use of repetition, not accidentally but intentionally. Others may like his writing, but I prefer longer, more ornate syntax.

What made this still a worthwhile read for me was the subject matter. My mind is still turning over how people could witness a woman being attacked in a courtyard and do nothing. Not only that, but they don’t check on her later, once the man is gone. That could have made a difference between her survival and death. It’s not like they needed to step in front of the serial killer. They might have been able to save her while never risking themselves, especially since there were so many of them watching. Mankind is awful.

If you like thrillers, ethical questions, or shows like CSI, you might like Ryan David Jahn’s work. The books are quick reads, and very dark.

Favorite Quote:

“Ten minutes ago, Frank though he was going to prison. Now he knows he’s not, and part of him thinks he should just be glad he’s getting out of this at all, but he’s not. He’s not glad. He’s furious. He’s known the world is broken for a long time, he’s known that, but sometimes he’s amazed at how broken; even now, at this point in his life, nearing fifty years old, he can stumble across something that makes him realize all over again that the world is not only broken, but beyond fixing. No amount of glue can ever make it right. And yet, you have to focus on your little part of it, don’t you? You have to focus on your little corner of the world and glue what cracks you can. Otherwise there’s no hope at all.”

3 responses to “Review: Good Neighbors”

  1. Nikki says:

    I can’t wait to read this book! It sounds so interesting! Thank you for the chance to win!

  2. Anita Yancey says:

    This book sounds so good. I love crime novels, so I would really like to read this one. I haven’t heard of this author before, but I am going to check out their books now. Thanks for having this giveaway.
    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

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