A Crime in the Neighborhood
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A Crime in the Neighborhood

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  891 ratings  ·  104 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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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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Sullivan
In the long hot summer of 1972, three events shattered the serenity of ten year old Marsha’s life: her father ran away with her mother’s sister Ada; Boyd Ellison, a young boy, was molested and murdered in a woodland area behind a shopping mall; and Watergate made the headlines.
Marsha Mayhew lived with her mother and two siblings in the Spring Hill neighborhood near an East Coast city. With its box shaped lawns, square trimmed trees and doors left unlocked at night, the Spring Hill neighborhood w...more
I can sum up the plot of this book in a brief paragraph:
(view spoiler)...more

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
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.
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
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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 Stuart
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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
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.
Quick read

I was drawn to the story and the setting. I could imagine being the girl in the neighborhood watching all that happened. the story waned some in the middle as it meandered around the characters but pulled together again in the end. I can apply the idea to be careful not to do things I will regret later.
I first read this book several years ago, before I'd read To Kill A Mockingbird, to which favourable comparisons are made in the blurb for A Crime In The Neighborhood.

And I really liked this book back then. Without remembering much about it, it has remained a book I'd recommend.

This second reading, though -- now after Mockingbird and, indeed, after Atonement -- was less exciting for me. It's still a good and gripping tale of childhood and the things kids perceive and do, but something about the...more
Mary Glass
Relentless little snoop

Marsha is not a sweet, huggable girl. The whole cast rings true in a multi layered treat. Small details are examined but not to the point of being a distraction. No tidy closure required here. The mess and stink of people you can believe exist is the goal.
I agree with many of the reviewers; the book was too mundane. Having grown up in the time period, I love reading books that evoke memories from my childhood. The author just seemed to miss on the descriptions of the time and the character development. I was disappointed.
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