It was the summer of 1972 when Spring Hill, a Washington, D.C., suburb, got its first taste
of an increasingly violent, insecure modern world. The quiet residential area, whose inhabitants
traditionally left their doors unlocked and spent the summers attending one another's cookout, was
rocked by the news that 12-year-old Boyd Ellison had been raped and murdered, his body dumped
behind the local mall. While shaken residents organized a neighborhood watch program and clued
detectives in on anyone's suspicious behavior, the inhabitants of at least one house were distracted
by a tragedy of their own: 10-year-old Marsha Eberhardt's father, Larry, had run off with his
sister-in-law, leaving his wife and three children to manage on their own. Marsha, stunned by her
father's abandonment and having broken her ankle, spends the summer witnessing her mother's
desperate attempts to cope, the neighborhood's paranoid response to the murder and even the
country's disorientation over the unfolding Watergate scandal.
The tension proves too great when
the Eberhardts' shy bachelor neighbor, Mr. Green, takes interest in Marsha's mother. Though
murder is the most visible crime in Marsha's neighborhood, it is by no means the only one,
Marsha's father and aunt run off together and Marsha wrongly accusses Mr. Green for the death
of Boyd Ellison.
Marsha's father had left before the summer Boyd Ellison was killed. The divorce had a
tremendous impact on the whole family. Marsha's twin brother and sister spent the summer away
on vacation and since Marsha had her ankle in a cast, she wasn't able to do things most kids did
during the summer vacation like swimming. Marsha remembered "it was only after my father left
and Boyd Ellison was killed that I started to wonder to myself what might happen next."(35)
Since Marsha had so much time on her...