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In her debut novel, Mal documents the brutal, real-life murder of a young girl in a small Pennsylvania town at the end of World War II. Like the true-crime magazine articles Mal has previously written, this story is precise and to the point. On a dark January night in 1945, a blizzard blanketed the small town of Vandling, Pa. Deciding against taking the bus, 9-year-old Mae Barrett walked the mile home from church. Within sight of her destination, she met someone well known to her--but she never went home again. In her concise account of what was undeniably a ghastly murder, Mal gives a guided tour of the actual events while managing to humanize the various players of the tragedy by skillfully weaving in detailed descriptions of the people involved and the locations where the events unfolded. The facts of the murder chillingly pair with colorful portraits of people and places, including Mae's family background and the death of her mother, which resulted in the move to her grandparents' home. While maintaining respect for the people whose lives were forever changed on that cold winter night, Mal also sketches pictures of the trials and tribulations faced by other families and friends populating the small, close-knit community. As a result of the attention to detail, readers closely--sometimes unsettlingly closely--follow the troubling events as they occurred. The author does take a certain amount of poetic license in communicating the thoughts of the murderer while the actual murder is being committed, but even that mind reading is tastefully done. Like the rest of the book, it doesn't feel contrived. A factual, engaging account of a horrific crime.