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A Crime in the Neighbourhood [Paperback]

Suzanne Berne
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 May 1999
A seductive story of suspicion, fear and moral corruption, this is the tale of 10-year-old Marsha. Her life is in turmoil following the collapse of her parents' marriage, and the brutal murder of a local boy. When the shy bachelor from next door begins to take an interest in Marsha's mother, Marsha is drawn into a cruel spiral of events that quickly spins out of control. 'Immaculate and impressive' - "The Literary Review".

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A Crime in the Neighbourhood + The Dogs of Littlefield
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (6 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140273328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140273328
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

A murdered boy, a runaway husband, a family spinning out of control-- Suzanne Berne's A Crime in the Neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood, 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 neighbour next door.

A Crime in the Neighbourhood 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 Neighbourhood an unusual and worthwhile read.


"A remarkable first novel...that captures the history of child-parent relations for the last quarter of a century."--The New York Times Book Review "Like Alice McDermott's That Night and in the tradition of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, Suzanne Berne has crafted a child's disillusionment that mirrors a greater disaffection."--Newsday

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In 1972 Spring Hill was as safe a neighborhood as you could find near an East Coast city, one of those instant subdivisions where brick split-levels and two-car garages had been planted like cabbages on squares of quiet green lawn. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a strange little story - little in several ways: it's short, has a narrow range of characters and, despite its disturbing themes of wasted lives and irretrivable mistakes, it manages to maintain a narrow take on their development. Marsha is nine. Her father leaves the family home after an ill-advised dalliance with his wife's sister and against the heat of a Washington summer and the backdrop of a vicious and sexually motivated murder, the reader is taken gently by the hand to watch as Marsha's pain at the loss of her father is transformed into bitter and spiteful obsessions with the murder of a ill-known local boy and with the deeply average man who moves in next door. These obsessions pervert and distort Marsha's otherwise natural progression from infant to teenager, and drive her to actions for which she will feel the responsibility for the rest of her life. She is old enough to understand what she is doing is wrong yet too immature to exercise the self-control required to save herself - and her neighbours - from compounding the local community's pain and grief triggered by the murder. Ultimately, Marsha's only redeeming feature is the guilt she subsequently feels and the motto by which she has come to live - in the end we cannot avoid pain in life, the best we can hope for is not to be the cause of pain for others. A rather sad novel of fatalism and hopelessness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well-crafted, well observed 13 July 2014
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 was ordinary. The closest the term ‘crime’ in Spring Hill and its adjacent mall could be used in association with any wrong-doing was shoplifting or a dog being run over and the driver not stopping.
Boyd Ellison and his parents lived in that neighborhood. Young twelve year old Boyd’s death would palpably alter Spring Hill. Subtle forms of vigilantism permeated the neighborhood with local men patrolling the streets at night in pairs and even Marsha in her own small, naive way becomes part of that vigilantism by recording everything that happens in her notebook. Those recordings will not only impact on her and her mother but on the neighborhood as a whole and especially on Marsha’s neighbour, Mr Green.
Suzanne Berne’s debut novel, her most recent The Dogs of Littlefield being long-listed for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, is a well-crafted, well observed slice of not only suburbia but America in the early years of the 1970s. The author captures a societal collapse instigated not only by the death of local boy but by the ongoing realization that the Watergate scandal will change the United States forever.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching - Atmospheric - Excellent 16 Mar 2002
By A Customer
A Crime in the Neighbourhood is a superb achievement. It captures the atmosphere of 70's suburbia through a child eyes with incredible precision. The title of the book indicates 'a' crime but really there are many. Boyd Ellison's murder, the narrator's father's affair, the unfolding Watergate scandal (this is a Washington suburb) all bounce off each other throughout the novel and within Marsha's mind.
What struck me most though was a profound feeling of longing that this novel captures. Marsha's longing to understand her father's affair. Her longing to understand the murder and above all a longing to understand people. As these desires cannot be satisfied it is a book that contains a lot of sadness.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part rite-de-passage, part crime-story 4 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Part rite-de-passage, part crime-story this is a beautifully-written and evocative novel.
In the early pages the details of the crime are outlined and immediately the "whodunnit" aspect which will be sustained to the last page is in place. But the novel soon settles down to depict one summer in the life of a young and sensitive girl and it is the beautiful language which primarily carries us through the pages. Our heroine is young and solitary, almost a spectator at her own life and we get her version of that summer in suburban Baltimore: the reactions in the neighbourhood, the drama in her own family, her sense of estrangement from her fellow-beings (her friend Luanne, her father and siblings, her neighbour Mr Green).
The book is superb throughout.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eating Goldfish from the bottom of your soul 16 April 1999
By A Customer
A crime in the neighbourhood is a truly timeless piece of writing. It evokes a feeling of the era, the geography and the people of Washington D.C. with the greatest of ease. The haunting anticipated terror that bubbles slowly beneath the plot makes the reading of this book a beautiful part of the day to look forward to. Inspiring, voluptuous, indicative, coasting & thundering are the word that best describe the eloquent and truly beautiful vision that is Suzzanne Berne's book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Anne Tyler, you'll like this
One of the reviewers on the blurb makes a comparison between the author and Anne Tyler and I'm not surprised. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Fitzpatrick
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual and memorable debut
This book was yet another of those entirely serendipitous discoveries. I picked it up by chance in my local Oxfam bookshop, having never heard of it or its author, and found myself... Read more
Published 4 months ago by James Brydon
4.0 out of 5 stars What an awful person is the narrator!
If you disliked the narrator of 'Atonement' you will dislike the narrator of 'A Crime in the Neighbourhood'. However, this is partially the point. Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2012 by hshm
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsympathetic characters but a compelling read
Although I found this book a compelling read I have to say that I didn't particularly enjoy it. Berne's prose is imaginative and elegant but I didn't like any of her characters,... Read more
Published on 22 May 2011 by Camilla Macaulay
1.0 out of 5 stars A Crime In The Neighbourhood
I didn't particularly enjoy this book. All the characters came across as unpleasant, and the book just meandered along without really going anywhere. Read more
Published on 14 July 2008 by gerty guinea
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy, light and great
When I read the synopsis on the back cover I thought I was in for a terrific, chilling and gripping tale. Read more
Published on 16 Nov 2005 by Great Scot
2.0 out of 5 stars I persevered with this book but wish I hadn't
I had high expectations of this book from the fly cover and indeed, it started off well, with pace and a good feeling of time and place but as each chapter progressed I kept... Read more
Published on 8 May 2005 by Chris Street
4.0 out of 5 stars a very rewarding read
very well written and a breeze to read through as it is very intersted. The main character is depicted extremely well and there is a close afinity created between her and the... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2003 by a.costa
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak and Disappointing
When I read the synopsis of this book I felt it had huge potential and when I had finished it all I was left with was a bad taste in my mouth. Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2001 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
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