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A Crime in the Neighborhood
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A Crime in the Neighborhood

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3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,031 ratings  ·  114 reviews
In the summer of 1972, in a suburb of Washington, D.C., the body of a twelve-year-old boy was found near a shopping mall. He had been sexually molested and then murdered. The worst crime came later. Marsha Eberhardt was ten years old at the time of the murder. The story of how she reacted is as disturbing as the murder itself. As the adult Marsha looks back on that summer ...more
Paperback, 247 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Penguin Group(CA) (first published January 6th 1997)
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Carol
While I was reading this book, I kept having to remind myself that it was a novel and not a true story. Berne drew me right into the story from the get-go, and I had to keep flipping back to the front cover to assure myself of the fact that the book was indeed a novel.
Paul
You know you're getting on a bit when a novel set in the early 1970s can be described as a period piece! This is set in suburban Washington DC in 1972/3 around the time Watergate was developing. It won the Orange prize in 1999 and has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and Hitchcock's Rear Window. Don't get either of these comparison's, because in my opinion it is not that good.
The story is narrated by nine year old Marsha, looking back as an adult. Marsha, it soon becomes clear is a specta
...more
Shirley Schwartz
I was disappointed with this book. It was listed as one of the top 10 crime novels by Kirkus Reviews, so I expected it to be good. It was OK, but not fantastic and the ending was left up in the air. The premise behind this book set in Washington DC in the 1970's is the effect that a murdered twelve-year-old child has on the entire neighbourhood. It was a hot summer in 1972 when young Boyd Ellison went missing. His body was found a day after, and the entire neightbourhood is put on an alert. It's ...more
Jean
A crime in the neighborhood. It's 1972, the year Nixon went to China and the Watergate burlary happened. And in a suburb of Washington, D.C., a 10-year-old boy is molested and killed in the woods behind a mall. The narrator is 10-year-old Marsha Eberhardt. She tells about the spring and summer of 1972, when her father left her mother to run off with her mother's sister, and a Mr. Green moves in across the street.
The language is fantastic; I could see and smell and hear the sounds of a summer ni
...more
Matthew
What's great about this book is the way it plays around with an unreliable narrator, something that's signalled right at the beginning of the novel. However I think that, although short, the book is too long for the story it contains and has to be padded out. This seems to be a result of the limitations the narrative perspective imposes-- if we can't know any more than the child, and she isn't well informed, then there isn't too much to tell. Also, the Nixon/family breakdown parallels are done i ...more
Lisa
In the summer of '72, in the D.C. suburbs, 10 year old Marsha tires to make sense of a word that is becoming increasingly uncertain. On a national level, and in her neighborhood, a boy is molested and murdered. Throughout the summer Marsha watches the building hysteria in the neighborhood, and record. There are so many great things about this book that I wish I could rave about it, but it left me lukewarm. What's right with it? The author has a good ear for dialogue. Her character development of ...more
Umarie Serrant
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shane Plassenthal
This is not a mystery novel. It is not a crime novel. Instead, it is a moving drama filled with much angst, beautiful and evocative writing. Berne's novel, while light on the suspense and mystery, is instead a portrait of what happens when a family falls apart and it's repercussions upon the children. A complex tale of the danger a rumor can have and the willingness of society to persecute the wrong person. The period is brought to life with Berne's descriptions. Anyone in the market for a smoot ...more
Eva
I can sum up the plot of this book in a brief paragraph:
(view spoiler)
...more
Christiane
Puzzled.

I found this book very well written, very atmospheric and with a good cast of characters - though none of them very endearing. At the beginning of the book we are told that the young boy's murder was never solved so we knew - despite the title - not to expect a murder mystery.

What bothered me, though, was the implausibility of nobody ever suspecting the new neighbour, Mr. Green, of having committed the crime.

The suspect is described as a balding, middle-aged man in a brown car who proba
...more
Felicia
3.5/5 stars. The almost flash-back style of narration was a little off-putting and the casual way the narrator, as a child, reacted to the murder was very off-putting. The character of Marsha was just, overall, not someone I connected to over the course of the story. Basically none of my questions were answered by the end. It was an all right read, but not a fantasic one.
Mirrani
This book seems to be a little bit of everything, there is some modern history, what with Watergate popping up at times in the story, and a look back at what "family" and "neighborhood" meant back in those days. I was surprised to realize just how much has changed in such a short span of time, even though I lived through some of the changes myself. You also get a crime to solve and a family's issues to struggle through. It is an interesting, but captivating combination. I found it surprisingly r ...more
Jessica
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Peggy Walker
A fascinating vignette

This is on the surface a simple story that takes place during the era of the Watergate break-in. Told in the first person, our narrator is a young girl living in a typical middle-class suburb as part of typical family, living a typical mundane life until that year when life as she knows it changes. A boy in her class is murdered, her father runs off with her mother's sister, a single middle-aged man moves in next door, her mother starts working and is focused on her own sur
...more
Judith Shadford
This was a fascinating read (by one of the newest RWW faculty members), not least because I lived in suburban Washington DC during the period she records. Lotsa familiar sounds, humidity, clothes--all there, like looking through an album I had never kept. Beautifully crafted story.
Anne Hawn Smith
I was disappointed in this book. It seemed more like a slice of life in a time period that seemed to be interesting, but the choices the characters make are unfortunate. I didn't find the characters particularly well developed and at times didn't act in character.
JJ Aitken
At first I was not drawn to write anything about this novel straight after finishing. I really enjoyed it a lot. Very clear and exceptionally realised but for some reason I thought I would just shelve it and move on. Then time away created room for reflection. There are so many great books centered around a coming of age story and for good reason. They are the most unfathomable experiences we may ever have. Not only are they the first of their kind for us but they also act as a major catalyst fo ...more
Marie
I was drawn into this story by the wonderful description. I need an ending when I am drawn into a who did it mystery. While I didn't get this ending I was still left with a feeling of having read a great book.
Jonathan Moore
Three falls from innocence take place alongside each other in this fictography. 10 year old Ada lives in Washington at the time of Watergate; in her particular suburb a boy is found murdered and no one feels safe; in her home, her father runs off with another woman and her mother has to keep the family going. The real crime though, is not fitting in on “a family street”. Written as though the narrator is looking back and trying to be as honest as she can, I was left with the satisfying sense of ...more
Val
The neighbourhood is a Washington suburb where nothing much happens, so the crime is a significant event for some time, even though few people knew the victim and those that did Don't seem to have liked him much. Suzanne Berne shows this complacent community very well. (This is not a murder mystery, we are told early on that the crime is never solved.)
The story is told over one Summer by a nine / ten year old girl and the significant event in her life is her parents' separation and divorce. Her
...more
Jan
This book looked just right for the semi zonked out state I arrived home in after a twenty six hour flight so started reading it right away. It was a gripping read and a worthy winner of the Orange Prize; quite remarkable for a first novel although the author was an experienced writer of shorter items.

Marsha was an interesting narrator - although at times a very unlikeable one, as she sneaks around the neighbourhood, twisting the truth, making up blatant lies and never thinking of the consequenc
...more
Roisin
I am surprised this won the Orange Prize as this was possibly one of the most boring books I have read in a long time. I'm also surprised I finished it but because other people thought it was good I was compelled to find out whether it improved or remained incredibly mundane throughout. Thankfully, the book improved in the last 30 pages or so when the real story, or the point of the story was revealed.

I've heard it said that every sentence should propel the story forward and I've often wondered
...more
Russ
Light on mystery, heavy on the angst, beautifully written, slow paced, complicated and yet simple I found this story a glorious, jumbled mess. There can be no doubt that Suzanne Berne knows how to write, I'm just not sure this is the story she intended. Yes, as the blurb suggests, it does involve the murder of a twelve-year-old boy in a Washington, D.C., suburb in 1975. But far from being the center of the story the death is more a peripheral element.

Marsha narrates. She was nine years old when
...more
Marguerite
This was a surprise and a delight. A nice period piece about an era I remember well. Marsha, the narrator, is 10 when a murder happens in her suburban D.C. neighborhood. Around the same time, Marsha's dad runs off with his wife's sister. Her older twin siblings are off in a world of their own. A single man moves in next door. And, Marsha's mind draws cause-and-effect connections between the events, with ghastly results. Watergate and its lies form the backdrop. We occasionally hear from the adul ...more
Leslie
This was quite good and very readable. Basically it's a bildungsroman. Its narrator, Marsha Eberhardt, tells the story of the summer of 1972 when she was 9 and everything in her world seemed to go wrong. Her mother discovers that her father is having an affair and their marriage breaks up; her father abandons the family; her elder siblings are angry and contemptuous, of her and everything else; her mother starts to work and contemplates selling the house; a socially awkward bachelor moves in nex ...more
Mark
A woman looks back on a summer, when she was eleven and a boy from her neighborhood was brutally murdered. An eccentric, single man who lives next door becomes the subject of the police investigation because of "evidence" supplied by the young girl. Although exonerated by the police, a certain stigma attaches to the man, causing him to move away. I found myself wondering what the point of this soul-searching was, and found no answer within these pages. Is it forgiveness she seeks? I never really ...more
Badly Drawn Girl
Reading this book was like opening a time capsule, so perfectly did the author capture that era. Suzanne Berne does an amazing job of setting the scene... I could smell the freshly cut grass, could hear the obnoxious yipping of the little dogs, could envision Mr. Green parking his car.

In true child fashion the narrator, following an intense summer that includes the murder of a neighborhood child, the loss of her father who has run off with her mother's younger sister, and the investigation of W
...more
Elizabeth
I love crime books and this one caught my attention. Then I was suddenly lost in a very long drawn out discussion of the divorce of the narrator's parents. While I understand why this was part of the book it almost made me stop reading. At one point I even went hack to the beginning to make sure this wasn't a figment of my imagination. The book did get beget but I cant get past the distraction at the beginning of the book.
Pam
Crime Fiction; debut novel. Read 10 years ago so am unable to give an accurate review at this time although I liked it enough to read another novel of hers. The blurbs written on both novels are very good and really peaked my interest. Giving it three stars since I did read a second novel and this one was the Orange Prize for Fiction winner in 1999.
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