While attending Harris Middle School, I didn’t spend a lot of time in its library. It wasn’t a strange phase or anything, I just rarely found much of anything I wanted to read on its shelves when I did visit. Everything felt lame and aimed at children. By the time of grades six through eight I was reading the heavy stuff, the adult stuff, and all the age appropriate material was boring.
That’s not to say I didn’t find something to read. Harris Middle had two books that I checked out more than once during my years there. One was Aaron E. Klein’s Science and the Supernatural: A Scientific Overview of the Occult. It was pretty cool from what I remember. The other book was a murder mystery, The View From the Cherry Tree. It was one of those books that was such pure entertainment it stayed with a reader. Or at least it did me.
Rob Mallory is being tortured. His oldest sister, Darcy, is getting married. She’s marrying Steve, but her former admirers Max and Derek still hang around because Teddi, Rob’s other sister, is still single. Not only do the former boyfriends still circle like vultures, but loads of family have driven in from out of town and have filled the house to the rafters. Rob’s days are overflowing with family and wedding emergencies. He’s sick of it.
The only reprieve the eleven-year-old boy gets is by climbing in the cherry tree which sits between his house and the neighbor, Old Lady Calloway. Mrs. Calloway is the neighborhood menace. She complains about everything and everyone, often calling the police for criminal infringements that didn’t happen. She even leaves her old water hose in the street for Max to run over just so she can say he ruined it and demand he buy her a new one.
One of her favorite pastimes of evil is to complain about Rob’s cat, Sonny (in the original version of the book I read, the cat’s name was S. O. B.; Rob’s dad referred to the cat as “that son of a bitching cat” and the name stuck). She doesn’t like Rob much either, going so far as to bait the cat to her porch and attacking it and Rob with a broom when comes to retrieve Sonny. It’s easy to see why someone would want the old woman dead.
While Rob is hiding in the cherry tree, he witnesses a pair of hands push the complaining Mrs. Calloway from a first floor window. That doesn’t seem very dangerous, but the strap of her ever present binoculars catches on a branch and hangs the cantankerous lady. The police rule it an accident.
Rob knows better, but no one will listen to him because he has a habit of telling some whopper lies. No one believes him, either, when it becomes apparent the killer wants to silence him before someone does take him seriously.
I reread this book recently and found it to be just as much fun now as I did when I was a kid. It doesn’t require you to think too much, and if that doesn’t spell summer entertainment I don’t know what does. If you find yourself in the mood for light, breezy suburban gothic, this is the ticket.