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Good Neighbors: A Novel Paperback – May 31, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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)

Review

"Intensely gripping . . . A fine and memorable novel."
-"Booklist", 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
"Heart-stopping."
-"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

"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
"Heart-stopping."
-"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."
-
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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #795,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ryan David Jahn's novel, Good Neighbors, does a very good job in bringing to life the social pyschological phenomenon known as the bystander effect, also known as the Genovese effect. This phenomenon refers to cases where individuals, such as in the Kitty Genovese murder case in 1964, do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present. The probability of help has in the past been thought to be inversely related to the number of bystanders; in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly decreases intervention. This happens because as the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to notice the incident, less likely to interpret the incident as a problem, and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action.

In Good Neighbors, a young woman, Katrina Marino, is returning home from her shift at a local bar when she is brutally attacked in her Queens apartment complex. Good Neighbors is the story of the woman's last night -- and of the bystanders who kept to themselves. Jahn does a credible job in creating a series of interlocking vignettes playing out the personal dramas involving several residents in Kat's apartment complex, resulting in their ignoring her screams for help during the two hours following her brutal attack. Good Neighbors' sense of suspense and urban menace brings to mind Hitchcock's Rear Window, as well as the movie Crash. On this dimension I would give the book a 4-star rating.

However, in terms of Jahn's ability to create fully developed characters and sub-plots, I would give the book a 3-star rating.
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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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