Mister Death’s Blue-eyed Girls
Based on an unsolved double murder in 1950s Maryland, where the author still lives, this chilling tale for young adult readers is both a coming-of-age story and a psychological study of accused and accusers, when no one really knows whom to blame for a brutal crime. Fictional characters replace the real players in the drama, and the story weaves around actual events without duplicating reality too closely, so that it misses being classified as “true crime.” But the pacing and the rhythm of the prose feel remarkably close to the spilling out of truth, making it easy for the reader to believe everything on the page is simply being remembered by the characters.
Central figures include Nora and Ellie, average high school girls bent on partying with friends. What no one foresees is the shooting death of two other girls in the woods. The event shatters Nora’s life and results in nearly everyone in the town suspecting a former boyfriend of one of the dead girls, Buddy. This is Nora’s first experience with death… but not Buddy’s. His squirrely grandmother used to drag him to funerals as entertainment, even when the deceased was a stranger. But does seeing so much death make a person itch to kill?
Mary Downing Hahn has created an eerie and troubling glimpse into violence and loss. Moreover, she captures with perfect clarity the innocence of living in a time before technology became so much a part of our lives, and her evocative details of the era ring absolutely true.