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Good Neighbors: A Novel Paperback – May 31, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For his crime novel debut (which won the CWA John Creasy Dagger Award), Jahn fictionalizes the horrific 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, whose cries for help during a lengthy stabbing assault went unanswered, but the execution falls a bit short of the intriguing concept. When Katrina Marino returns late one night to her Queens apartment complex from her bar job, a man attacks her in the building's courtyard with a knife. Kat's neighbors hear her screams, but no one bothers to call the police, assuming someone else already has. The intersection of the lives of the people who witness the crime will call to mind films such as Crash, but some readers will wish that the author had explored what led to their fatal indifference. The horror of their apathy occasionally comes through—as when one character turns from his window to mix a drink—but given the raw material to work with, the overall impact is less disturbing than it could have been. (June)


"Compelling, slick, exuberant, flashy, funny, fierce, and cinematic . . . Deftly written with panache and polish . . . This remarkable novel, a lean, psychologically unsettling noir tale, will stay with you long after you put it down and regretfully say, 'I wish I wrote that.'"
-Library Journal, starred review

"One of the best books I have ever read. . . . The writing is powerful, it takes hold of you from the first page and that hold gets tighter and tighter until the heart-wrenching ending. It was impossible to put down. Good Neighbors is a book not to be missed."
-Kendall Gutierrez, Suspense Magazine

"Intensely gripping . . . A fine and memorable novel."
-Booklist, starred review

-Library Journal

"Darkly powerful . . . Jahn inhabits these people and their problems so completely and convincingly that they don't seem like monsters even as they ignore the woman who's dying only a few yards away."
-Kirkus Reviews

"A terrific debut . . . A wonderfully visual book-the effect is of watching, unseen, through a dozen different windows as Jahn switches from one scenario to the next. Powerful, compassionate and authentic, it works both as a mystery and as a snapshot of America in the early 1960s."
-The Guardian

"Gripping . . . Jahn takes the nub of the real Genovese case and weaves a superb series of fictional stories around it. . . . He constructs a convincing edifice of doubt, anger, jealousy, despair and a host of other emotions leading inexorably to the same conclusion: do nothing."
-The Times (London)

"A striking first novel . . . It contains genuine insights into the way people act under pressure."
-The Sunday Times (London)

"An astounding piece of fiction. It grips you like a vice from the beginning and doesn't let you go. . . . [Jahn is a] bright new star to crime fiction."

"An audacious, inventive piece of literary thriller writing . . . Jahn's novel is subtle, delicately constructed and displays a fine ear for dialogue. It also announces the arrival of a distinctive new talent."
-Daily Mail

"Brutal and immediate . . . Cleverly written, accomplished and gripping. . . . At times I had to stop reading to catch my breath."
-The Bookseller

"Without a doubt, the most outstanding novel I have read this year."
-Rhian Davies, It's a Crime!

"Jahn's violent amorality tale has . . . drawn well-earned comparisons with Bret Easton Ellis and James Ellroy. . . . Gripping, and layered with juicy, scathing insights into the relationships and politics of the era, Jahn proves himself as a promising noir talent."
-The List

"Addictive and compelling."

"A gripping and thoughtful psychological thriller . . . Terse, telegraphic and present-tense, Jahn's style creates a voyeuristic distance between reader and characters that perfectly matches his theme, the fearfulness and atomization of urban life that encourages each man to be an island."
-Financial Times

"A very accomplished debut, a gripping thriller based on a real event in '60s America. Moving quickly from perspective to perspective, it scoops the reader up from page one and does not let go. This is not only a crime novel, but a brilliant evocation of '60s New York in terms of its prejudices, its corruption and its humanity."
-Crime Writers Association Dagger Award judges' citation


[Audio Review] Narrator Paul Costanzo balances the multiple points of view in this compelling crossroads of characters and drives listeners to want to hear more about their lives well after the story ends. Building a fictional narrative inspired by the famous Kitty Genovese murder in New York City in 1964, Jahn explores some reasons why neighbors did not aid the young woman who was being killed outside their doors and windows. Costanzo improves the book with a voice that blends well with whatever perspective he is narrating; he can move from the psychopath to the victim clearly enough not to lose or confuse listeners. His strong command of tone, emphasis, and pacing, which varies by character, almost immediately tells the listener whose point of view it is before being identified. --AudioFile --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014311896X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118961
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ryan David Jahn grew up in Arizona, Texas, and California. He finished school at sixteen, worked several odd jobs, and spent time in the army before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked in television and film for several years.

He published his first novel, the CWA John Creasey Dagger winning Acts of Violence, in 2009, and has since published three others: Low Life; The Dispatcher, which was long-listed for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; and The Last Tomorrow. Translation rights to his works have been sold in twelve languages.

He now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife Jessica and two daughters, Matilda and Francine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin V. Finn on May 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
Can you hold your breath for two hundred and eighty pages? Good Neighbors is a wooden rollercoaster of intensity, a tale as emotionally raw and unforgiving as the infamous New York murder its drawn from. Ryan David Jahn's debut novel deftly puts you in the courtyard, suffering Katrina Marino's final, brutal moments with her as she pleads for mercy and waits in vain for help from the neighbors she knows can see her, and hear her screams. All you can do is turn the page faster to discover the shocking secrets hidden within the lives of those who ignore Katrina's dying pleas. What sins could be so painful they'd be willing to let one of their own die so viciously to protect them? Jahn's a skilled storyteller, a refreshing new voice in mystery who's stark and realistic style brings back haunting memories while creating new terrors that'll have you checking your windows and wondering `what would my neighbors do?' Don't miss this one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) on August 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
For anyone who remembers the infamous Kitty Genovese case in 1964, Jahn's novel is a chilling reminder of the early morning in Queens, New York, when a young woman is attacked outside her apartment and stabbed repeatedly, neighbors coming to the windows facing the courtyard, but none intervening on her behalf. The author describes the nightmarish ordeal through protagonist Kat Marino, the wounded victim inching forward to the safety of her front door. Not one person calls the police, Kat left to suffer the agony of her wounds, her blood pooling beneath her, her will to survive indomitable, every inch gained a victory against death.

The horror is in the contrast between what is happening on the street and behind closed doors. In a series of vignettes, a number of the neighbors' stories are told: two wife-swapping couples embroiled in argument and mutual recriminations; a wife demanding truth from an unfaithful spouse; a draftee ordered to report for duty, his dying mother both a burden and an excuse; a man considering suicide; and a mixed-race couple facing a terrible dilemma, the husband, Frank, driving away just as Kat is parking her car. These small stories are reminiscent of Hitchcock's "Rear Window", personal dramas occurring in the hours just before dawn. Except that as these folks are embroiled in their problems, a helpless woman is repeatedly attacked, her blood-curdling screams ignored.

Much has been written about this shocking case, the "Bystander Effect" and the anonymity of modern urban communities, but there is no denying the troubling reality of the situation, the lack of interest or human compassion that renders a woman's distress invisible. With the dawn comes the flashing of an ambulance's lights, a comment, "It's just the way it is in the city. And sometimes it ends in death." A harrowing and shameful footnote in the life of an American city. Luan Gaines/2011.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine on August 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Ryan David Jahn's first novel is based around the notorious real-life murder of Kitty Genovese (one also fictionalised in a short story by Harlan Ellison, The Whimper of Whipped Dogs), the author here however using it as the central incident to examine the lives of a number of what was reported to be 38 people who witnessed the crime and failed to do anything about it. What could possibly be going on in the lives of these people that it is too much trouble to even lift a phone when a woman is attacked outside her house? Acts of Violence manages, in a pulp-fiction manner that is entirely appropriate to the setting and the period, to depict the feverish mindsets of a range of characters whose only thing in common would seem to be that they are all in the same neighbourhood and all of them are living in fear or despair.

Taking in attempted suicide, alcoholism, unhappy marriages in crisis, child abuse, sordid scenes of adultery and wife-swapping, old people living in ill-health, corrupt cops, hit-and-run traffic incidents, a great deal of violence and a couple of grisly murders, the novel doesn't let up on the bleakness and misery of sad lives with no outlook or prospects of improvement. Things it seems can only get worse, and in Acts of Violence they often do. There's a certain naivety in the simplicity of the writing and storytelling, particularly in the structure, which contrives to have one incident lead on or into to the next, glimpsed from one dark room of an apartment block complex into the lighted room of another where another torrid scene is taking place, the situations summed-up with over-explanatory, over-heated narrative and expositional dialogue.
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