A Crime in the Neighborhood
|Publisher:||Owl Publishing Company|
An auspicious debut novel by a young writer who will remind readers of Anne Lamott and Anne Tyler
Crime in the Neighborhood centers on a headline event— the molestation and murder of a twelve-year-old boy in a Washington, D.C., suburb. At the time of the murder, 1973, Marsha was nine years old and as an adult she still remembers that summer as a time when murder and her own family’s upheaval were intertwined. Everyone, it seemed to Marsha at the time, was committing crimes. Her father deserted his family to take up with her mother’s younger sister. Her teenage brother and sister were smoking and shoplifting, and her mother was “flirting” with Mr. Green, the new next-door neighbor. Even the president of the United States seemed to be a crook. But it is Marsha’s own suspicions about who committed this crime that has the town up in arms and reveals what happens when fear runs wild.
A murdered boy, a runaway husband, a family spinning out of control—Suzanne Berne’s A Crime in the Neighborhood is no ordinary coming-of-age novel. The narrator of this dark tale of 1970s suburbia is 10-year-old Marsha, who lives with her mother and older twin siblings in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In the spring of 1972, a young boy is molested, murdered, and then dumped behind a shopping mall. That the child was not particularly likeable is just one of Berne’s deviations from the expected, as clear-eyed Marsha recalls the boy’s many character flaws, even as she relates the details of an undeniably horrifying crime. Though murder is the most visible crime in Marsha’s neighborhood, it is by no means the only one; when Marsha’s father and aunt run off together, their enormous betrayal sends Marsha’s mother into a tailspin and Marsha into a strange dalliance with Mr. Green, the neighbor next door.
A Crime in the Neighborhood is a deft and provocative first novel that turns many of the coming-of-age conventions on their heads. There is nothing sepia-tinted about Marsha’s recollections of her childhood—the lives of 10-year-olds are mired in the mistakes of adults and the cruelties of other children. The pitiless eye Marsha brings to bear on the friends, family, and acquaintances of her youth makes A Crime in the Neighborhood an unusual and worthwhile read.