"If you see Buddy, tell him I hate him," Cheryl calls from the door.
Mrs. O'Brien looks at us. "Did Cheryl break up with Buddy?"
"A long time ago, Ma," Ellie says. "She has a much nicer boyfriend now."
Mrs. O'Brien takes our empty cereal bowls to the sink. "I'm glad to hear it. I never liked that boy. He has a sneaky look. I'm surprised Cheryl's parents didn't send him packing long ago."
"They tried," Ellie says, "but you know how Cheryl is. She kept seeing him anyway. But not anymore. Now she hates him. And he hates her."
Mrs. O'Brien sighs. "What heartless girls you are." She smiles when she says it, so we know she's joking.
"Maybe we should drive down to the park and find out what's going on. Didn't you notice the ambulances and cop cars coming up Eastern Avenue?"
I light a cigarette. "An accident on Route Forty or something. Happens all the time."
There's nothing else to do, so we get in my car and head for the park. Just in case there's something to see. Just in case Cheryl is there. I grip the wheel a little tighter. Who am I kidding? She won't be there. She's gone somewhere with Ralph in that big goddamn fancy convertible he drives. Girls—is that all they want?
He wonders what Ellie and her friend told the detectives. What's her name—Nora, the tall one who laughs too loud. She was there the night of the party too. She must have slept at Ellie's that night because they'd walked to school together the next day. He'd watched from his hiding place in the woods. Stupid girls. If they'd been with Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, they'd be dead too.
I realize I may have gotten semi-overzealous with the quotes this time around, but Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls just begs for it. Mary Downing Hahn, I'm sorry for fangirling here, BUT OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU. And to those of you who still have any doubts at all about Mary Downing Hahn's capital-L Literary chops, LOOK NO FURTHER.
This book—set in June, 1956—captures both the era and the season. You know it's June not just because the author tells you, but because it feels like June: you can feel the long days, warm evenings, and the imminent end of school. You know it's 1956 not only because you're told that but because it feels right: there are descriptive details about music and clothing, but those only serve to enhance the atmosphere, not to create it.
It was inspired by a true story: there was a similar incident that the author was a witness to (in the way that Nora is a witness) in 1955, and it's clear from both the Author's Note at the end and from the storyline itself that it's an event that affected her deeply. It works as a mystery, as a coming of age story, as a meditation on the nature of suspicion, and an empathetic imagining of how an unsolved mystery can haunt those involved—both witnesses and suspects—for life.
Easily cross-shelvable in the YA and the adult mystery section. GOOD STUFF.
Book source: ILLed through my library. This book was read for the 2012 Cybils season.