Mary Byrd Thornton could understand how a reporter couldn' t resist the story: a nine-year-old boy sexually molested and killed on Mother's Day, 1966. A suspect to whom nothing would stick. A neighborhood riddled with secrets. No one, especially the bungling or complicit authorities, had been able to solve the crime. Now, 30 years later, the reporter' s call will reel a reluctant Mary Byrd from Mississippi back to Virginia where she must confront her family - and, once again, the murder's irremovable stain of tragedy.
It’s the summer of 1959 in the seemingly tranquil suburbs of Washington, DC. But our young narrator, John, and his best friends, Ivan and Max, know the truth: Every door on their street could be hiding an escaped Nazi or a spy. The entire city is being plagued by an inexplicable spider infestation - surely evidence of "insect warfare" by the Russians! So when a rare vinegaroon - a whip scorpion - is discovered and sequestered for museum study, the boys, along with their tomboy accomplice, Beatriz, hatch a risky midnight plan to steal the poisonous creature.