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by Suzanne Berne

Reviewed by Karen Meek

A CRIME IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD takes place in 1972 in a Washington DC suburb. The narrator, ten year old Marsha, takes the reader through the events that happen that year, to herself, her family and the neighbourhood. These are not insignificant happenings; her father runs off with her mother's sister, a local boy is murdered behind the nearby shopping mall and she breaks her ankle falling out of a tree. All this is set against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal.

A CRIME IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is more a rites of passage novel than a mystery and does not concern itself with who did the eponymous crime. Rather it focuses on the repercussions on Marsha, her family and the neighbourhood.

This is a beautifully written book, wonderfully evocative as well as extremely easy to read. It also won The Orange Prize in the UK. The opening chapter, which describes the last few minutes of the boy's life, is a real stunner. I didn't find Marsha the most loveable of children and her actions later in the book can be explained but not endorsed. In the end I found the book unsatisfying because of the lack of resolution that I come to expect being a crime fiction reader. A worth while read nonetheless.

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