Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing HahnThe morning after a party in the park, Nora and her best friend Ellie are hung over and running late for the last day of their Junior year. The two are still not ready when Cheryl and Bobbi Jo come by to walk with them to school. Unwilling to wait (and possibly miss a rendezvous with Cheryl’s new boyfriend), Cheryl and Bobbi Jo set out on their own.

This sequence of events changes everything for Nora and Ellie. It also saves their lives. Later that afternoon the bodies of Cheryl and Bobbi Jo are found hidden in the woods between Ellie’s house and school. Both girls have been shot.

Everyone in town, including Ellie, thinks Cheryl’s brooding ex-boyfriend Buddy gunned the girls down because Cheryl wouldn’t get back together with him. After passing two lie-detector tests and surviving 48 hours in a jail cell, the police let him go. Despite this, Nora is the only one who believes Buddy didn’t commit the crime.

Told from alternating perspectives of Nora and Buddy with an occasional chapter by Mister Death himself, readers are taken through the aftermath of the murders that shake their small town to its core.

Based on true events, “Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls” isn’t the book I thought it was going to be. Instead of a mystery, Hahn has written a memoir. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but while reading, I kept expecting Nora to turn Nancy Drew and help the obviously ineffective police department catch Mister Death. Instead, Nora spends much of the book overcome by survivor’s guilt. To the point that she begins to question everything from what she wants to do with her life to the existence of God.

Using fashion and music as her main reference points, Hahn firmly anchors “Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls” in June 1956. This choice of time period helps readers understand Nora’s naivete and the behavior of the police and townspeople, but the musical references seem a little heavy-handed at times. It would not be difficult to build a pretty robust 1950s playlist from the songs and artists mentioned in almost every chapter.

By the end of the book, I was still expecting a mystery novel (which may reveal more about me as a reader than Hahn as a writer), so I was a little disappointed. Even though the end wraps things up, there’s no dramatic revelation and no clear-cut “good guys win, bad guys lose” moment. It’s very real life.

I think that was my main problem with “Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls.” I wanted it to be more sensational, creepier, more “who done it?” and less realistic. So, if you’re looking for an account of how a traumatic event can change the lives of those it touches, “Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls” is an excellent choice and can be found in the Teen Department. But if you’re looking for a creepy mystery to escape your real life for a while, this isn’t the book for you.

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