BOOK REVIEW: A Crime In The Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne

A Crime In The NeighborhoodA Crime In The Neighborhood
By Suzanne Berne
Completed July 5, 2012

Do you remember when an event happened during your youth that burst your idyllic bubble? For young Marsha, the main character in Suzanne Berne’s A Crime In The Neighborhood, two back-to-back events rocked her world: the departure of her father and the murder of a neighborhood boy. Though unrelated, these two events became Marsha’s focus during the summer of 1972, changing her life forever.

Berne deftly intermingles these two storylines throughout A Crime In The Neighborhood. We learn first that Marsha’s father, Larry, was having an affair with his wife’s youngest sister. Marsha’s mom, Lois, finds out, and eventually Larry moves away with his mistress – all within a span of a few weeks. Marsha was daddy’s little girl, not wanting to take sides, but desperately needing his father’s presence in her life.

Then, a neighborhood boy is found molested and dead in nearby woods, sending shock waves over Marsha’s quiet community. The neighborhood is on high alert, including Marsha, who begins observing her new neighbor, Mr. Green. She’s convinced that Mr. Green is the murderer, and her young imagination begins to convince her more and more as the days progress.

Marsha is precocious, smart and observant – skills that would later serve her as an attorney. She also makes a delightful narrator. In fact, Berne did a commendable job creating all the characters, from Marsha’s stoic mother to the panic-stricken neighbors. But I love Marsha’s innocence and imagination the best.

A Crime In The Neighborhood can’t just be characterized as a murder mystery – it has so many other layers: the state of marriage in the 1970’s, political unrest with Watergate and Richard Nixon; and a coming of age tale for a young girl. Winner of the 1999 Orange Prize for Fiction, A Crime In The Neighborhood would be enjoyed by lovers of the Orange Prize and murder mystery fans alike. It truly has something for everyone. (  )


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jayme@Beachreader
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 20:29:35

    I read this book in June and thought it was great. I kept saying to my self “Marsha don’t do it” over and over again as I was reading it.


  2. tinavaldes
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 22:01:55

    I’ll be adding this one to Mount TBR!!


  3. nomadreader
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 00:41:25

    I read this one last year and really enjoyed it. It’s such an under-appreciated Orange winner!


  4. Alex in Leeds
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 02:09:52

    I’m planning to read all the Oranges next year, it’s nice to read a bit more about this one as I must confess, I don’t remember it winning!


  5. JoV
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 05:16:07

    Isn’t this the first Orange winner? I read it 2 years ago, love it! and I’m glad you love it too!


  6. kheenand
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 17:56:08

    Sounds interesting – will think about adding this one to the wish list


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