One summer evening in 1972, a young boy was brutally murdered behind a suburban shopping mall. His death sent shock waves through the neighborhood; this crime was unprecedented. The murder and related events are retold by Marsha, a 10-year-old girl. She becomes a bit obsessed with the murder and imagines herself a private investigator, collecting "evidence" in a notebook. But at the same time, Marsha's own life has been turned upside-down by dysfunctional family relationships. The reader quickly realizes Marsha may not have a firm grasp of the situation.
In fact, over the course of the novel several "crimes" are committed: husband-wife betrayal, deceit between siblings, squabbles and mistrust between neighbors. Some are incidental; others have significant after-effects. Suddenly it becomes clear that solving the murder is not the point of this Orange Prize-winning novel. It starts out as a mystery, but ends with insights on a deeper crime: man's inhumanity to man. Recommended. ( )