Sunday, August 21

Good Neighbors

What attracted me to Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn was two things: reviews said the story was based on the Kitty Genovese story and it was compared to the movie Crash. I had a flashback to an incident that occurred on my lunch break years ago, when I was in my early 20s. I decided to read the book.

This is Jahn's first book. He could be the next excellent writer if he continues to write stories like this one.

Kat Marino is a young woman who goes off her late shift and returns home to her apartment in Queens around 4 a.m. Little does she know there's a predator waiting for her. Little does she know a bunch of her neighbors (some strangers, some not) are up at the time, involved in their own petty little dramas. So she is attacked by the predator and screams for help. Some people actually comes to their windows to look out but no one lifts a finger to help--not even to call the police.

The story goes on with the last few hours of poor Kat's life. There are also visits to all these other people to learn what they'd been doing and why they didn't act to help. There's a rogue cop and an EMT with vengeance on his mind.

The book is a thriller and one of those I had trouble putting down. All the same, it was also a story where I disliked nearly all the characters. Part of it was that they did nothing to help. I know there's a whole syndrome about this named for Kitty Genovese--the more bystanders there are the less likely it is that anyone will get involved. All these characters had other "stuff" going on in their lives but it was hard for me to care or feel sympathetic. The characters were also rather stereotypical which could be due to Jahn's inexperience or due to the length of the story (it's not very long at all).

My favorite character was Frank, who passed Kat's car as she was arriving home. I think he would have helped her if he'd been able to return in time.

The memory that got sparked: I was working in Baltimore City as a clerk typist. I liked to take my lunch by myself outdoors on nice days. This particular day I went to Hopkins Plaza. On one side was the Morris Mechanic Theater. I went up to the top level. I could look down on the plaza and people watch or gaze at the flowers there. I always had a book with me because I get myself settled and read while I ate. That's what I was doing when I heard the scream.

I stood up and looked down into the plaza. Dozens of people were sitting along the fountain and the flower bank, eating their lunches. None of them had screamed but they were all looking around. Then I saw a man dragging a woman along. It almost looked like he had her around the throat as he pulled her along. She was screaming "No, no!" No one got up or challenged the man.

"Hey!" I yelled from where I was. There was no way I could reach them--and no way that man could reach me. They never looked around anyway.

The man continued to drag the woman out of the plaza.

Then I saw a hard hat entering the plaza. He heard her screaming and ran to her aid. At about the same time, police or security guards came out of the federal building on the other side of the plaza and the man was apprehended.

I have no idea what almost happened. Did the two of them know each other? Were they strangers? It bothered me a lot that no one tried to help her and I wondered what would have happened if the construction worker hadn't intervened.

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