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ACTS OF VIOLENCE
by Ryan David Jahn
Pan, July 2010
280 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330517333


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Leaving the sports bar where she works, all Katrina wants is to get home from her late-night shift and climb into a hot bath. But from the flat tyre out in the parking lot to the serial killer outside her apartment, this isn't going to be her night. In fact, despite her tenacity in the face of escalating horror, it's going to be the last night of her life. Some of her neighbours witness the first brutal attack by William the serial killer, and Katrina's subsequent struggles to make it to her front door before he returns, but for all sorts of reasons, mostly the insistence that someone else already will have, no one calls the police.

The story is set one night in 1960s New York and follows a cast of characters as well as Katrina through a series of individual and interconnected scenes. Patrick, who has to make the choice between the fear of being drafted to Vietnam and the fear of spending his life looking after his sick mother. Thomas, who has been living a lie and is one shot away from suicide when Christopher knocks on his door. Peter and Anne, a happily married couple experimenting with wife-swapping for the first time. Alex the corrupt cop, David the disturbed paramedic, Mr Vacanti the paedophile, Frank the black mechanic, the list goes on.

This is a large cast which might have become confusing and muddled in the hands of a less capable author, but Jahn handles them all with equal amounts of compassion and judgement, crafting a narrative that flows seamlessly from scene to scene, drawing together the individual threads into a satisfying ending that, like life, isn't neat and tidy but is a slowly dawning realisation of the tragedy that has occurred.

There are moments of frightening brutality, and the historic truth behind the story is horrific, but without a doubt the most terrifying element of this novel is that so many people have the chance to save Katrina and no one does.

Despite being set in a different time with different morals, this is one of those stories which translates to any time and to any place and has the power to make the reader ask that often difficult question: what would I do?

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in the South West. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, March 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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