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 hands during the summer of 72, she seemed to fill the time with investigating who could have killed Boyd Ellison....
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