Crime: Inappropriate morality tales – Mysteries for teens

“Do you have something inappropriate?” asked a teen patron at the Beacon Hill library.

“Lots,” I countered and pulled out Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan. What can be more horrific than plotting to kill your teacher? “No,” he whispered violently, “I mean like sex.”

Oh, that kind of inappropriate, I chortled inside.

I still think that my first reaction is not far off the mark: murder surely is the ultimister death'smate morality tale. It is especially gruesome when it involves a teen, which is why The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, published in 2002, made such a mark in print as well as in film. Another recent entrée to the teen murder mystery genre is Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn. The author wrote the piece in part because of her real life experience of encountering the murder of two young girls in the small town in which she grew up. It was an indelible memory that took her almost three decades to write into a story. The drama is set in the 1950s with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard wailing in the background, while “Mister Death,” hidden in the trees, shoots two popular girls.

The murder is a bombshell in the quiet town and most everyone suspects and haunts a boyfriend of one of the girls, which turns out to be an erroneous assumption. The complexity of the relationships and the injustices in the idyllic 1950s turn out to be the real culprits in the deed. The author’s personal connection to the story permeates the reading of it. In a June 2012 interview for Horn Book Magazine, she states what we all fear lurking just around the corner: “I’ve drawn on the fear those events instilled in me. I was so afraid of things afterward. I still worry when I go into, say, a park, and I’m walking along a trail, I still have this deep-down fear that if I go poking into the bushes I might find a dead body.” Hahn’s other mystery titles include: Closed for the Season and Look For Me By Moonlight.

Other notable mystery suggestions made by our teen services librarians are here in our catalog. These titles would be of high interest to teen and adult mystery lovers alike.

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