Mary Downing Hahn's books have always fallen into two categories for me - her suspenseful, creepy stories such as Closed forthe Season, and her historical fiction books like Stepping Through the Cracks. Mister Death's Blue Eyed Girls is a combination of both of these types of books.
Set in 1955, Hahn fictionalizes a storythat occurred in Hahn's own teen years- the murder of two acquaintances in a nearby park. No one was ever convicted of the crime and Hahn recalls this as a pivotal event in her teen years, a time when she was already examining her religious beliefs.
Nora, the main narrator, tells of hanging out with friends, experimenting with cigarettes and beer, and partying with friends the night before the last day of school. She and Ellie are running late the next morning, and never bump into their friends Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, who it is later discovered are shot on their way to school in the park.
While the novel centers around who may have committed the crime, most people in town are certain that Buddy Novak, Cheryl's ex-boyfriend, is the murderer. Nora isn't quite as certain of Buddy's guilt. There are several reasons why she is sure Buddy is not the killer, and Hahn herself recalls from her own memories on which this story is set that a young man was a suspect, viewed by all as guilty, but never charged. Because of this, Hahn does a good job of exploring the way such a reputation would impact Buddy's life for many years.
I especially enjoyed Hahn's notes at the end explaining her own connection to this story. The 50s references within this book -from music to clothing to cars made me feel like I was truly back in time. Mister Death's Blue Eyed Girls does contain suspense, yet it is more of a coming of age book as Nora's beliefs are explored and she deals with loneliness and grief. While I loved this book, it is not one I will purchase for my elementary students, as the content is more suitable for young adult readers.