Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Han is a well-written historical fiction YA novel about the murder of two girls which shakes a small town in the 1950s. Nora, the main character, is at the heart of Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls. Nora is friends with the victims, Cheryl and Bobbi-Jo and hangs out with them the night before their murders. The deaths of the two girls come as a shock to Nora. Much of Elmgrove, the Baltimore suburb in which this book is set, believes Cheryl’s ex, a ne’er do well named Buddy was the killer, but Nora has her doubts, which the book explores.
The structure of Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is quite interesting. The book is divided into alternate point of view chapters with letters as well as diary entries. Further, we also get the point of view of the killer which is incredibly creepy. The narrative structure lends itself quite well to exploring themes of tragedy and growing up.
Tragedy changes Elmgrove. The residents’ sense of safety is shaken. Those close to it experience deep hurt and pain, as is typical to the grieving process. Yet, we also get to see Nora’s reactions to those who sensationalize the tragedy, those who are kind to her because they want the lurid details. Mary Downing Hahn does a fair job portraying the very real emotions and different faces that tragedy can wear.
Perhaps the best part of Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is the dynamism of Nora as a character. She starts out as quite an immature young girl, with her biggest worry being if the popular jock notices her or not. Then we see Nora deeply questioning different aspects of her life as an outcome of the murders. Nora does question her faith as well, but in a respectful manner. I think that a lot of teenagers will be able to identify with Nora’s turning points and with her questioning, even if tragedy has not struck their lives.
In all, Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn is a book that stands out. It is fast-paced, engaging and thought-provoking. While Mister Death’s Blue Eyed Girls may not have the fanfare of bigger YA releases, it is a gem of a book that I absolutely would recommend for readers who enjoy true crime as well as historical fiction.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn:
The Hiding Spot – “I found the character development and plot intriguing”
Attack The Stacks – “a quietly moving novel”