Posted in Books you might have missed, Recent Releases

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson

Release date: February 4, 2020 (illustrated edition)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆  (8/10)

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was written by Holly Jackson and published by Delacorte Press in February 2020. This is actually going to be the first book in a series; the second novel, Good Girl, Bad Blood, will be released in February 2021. The tagline reads, “For readers of Kara Thomas and Karen McManus, an addictive, twisty crime thriller with shades of Serial and Making a Murderer about a closed local murder case that doesn’t add up, and a girl who’s determined to find the real killer–but not everyone wants her meddling in the past.”

PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: Pippa Fitz-Amobi – known as Pip – has a very well-adjusted life in a Connecticut small town. She lives with her mother in a blended and incredibly close biracial family, and she has two best friends she’s known forever. So why is she so obsessed with the idea of solving a local murder mystery that everyone has already considered solved for five years now?

After all, the town’s residents know what happened – or, so they think. Andie Bell was a gorgeous, blonde, popular senior who went missing on a Friday night and was presumably murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh. Sal supposedly confessed in a text to his father, killed himself in the woods without disclosing Andie’s location, and left his family ostracized by a town who viewed them as evil and part of the “other.” 

Pip is a great protagonist; she’s persistent, she’s ballsy, and she’s incredibly intelligent, yet she’s also vulnerable and flawed, which made for an entertaining read.”

Pip – who once considered Sal a hero for his never-ending niceness, and how he helped her deal with a bully – is not convinced that this is what actually happened. She decides to focus her senior thesis on how the media handled Andie’s disappearance and jumped to naming Sal the murderer (no “allegedly”)…but she immediately breaks the rules of her project by contacting Sal’s surviving family and involving his older brother, Ravi.

Together, the two of them begin their own dangerous and thorough investigation into what actually happened that night in 2014 – and as they uncover previously unknown details, and begin to piece together the truth, Pip realizes they’re surrounded by suspects. Clandestine meetings, threatening notes, blackmail, and deadly confrontations all lead up to an explosive ending that shocks even Pip herself.

MY THOUGHTS: This is Jackson’s first novel, although the second book in this series will be coming out in a few short months. I really enjoyed this book and read it in one day; it’s 387 pages, but it’s well-spaced and does include illustrations, maps, etc., which I always appreciate. I felt it was fairly easy to see that there would likely be sequels to this novel; the story of Andie Bell was tied up neatly, but there were other mysteries involving town residents that weren’t wrapped up by the end of Andie and Sal’s story.

This story was told in chapters that gave us real-time looks into Pip’s actions and conversations, interspersed with her project diary and transcripts of interviews she conducted. For someone with ADHD (okay, I’m just talking about me here), who really enjoys something slightly different every few pages, this was great. It also really helps the reader feel as if they are involved in the investigation themselves and taking part, and are thus more invested in the outcome of the mystery.

After all, the town’s residents know what happened – or, so they think. Andie Bell was a gorgeous, blonde, popular senior who went missing on a Friday night and was presumably murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh.”

In regards to whodunit, this novel follows a trend I’ve noticed A LOT in the mystery genre in the recent 1-2 years. It’s not a clear-cut answer, and there’s more than one twist and turn as things come to a head. This IS very much a young-adult mystery novel, so I feel safe saying it’s not a shock that a couple of the clues I picked up on super-early did indeed pan out in the end…but the meaning they had, while huge, was not the final reveal. (What a mysterious review to a mystery within a mystery.)

Pip is a great protagonist; she’s persistent, she’s ballsy, and she’s incredibly intelligent, yet she’s also vulnerable and flawed, which made for an entertaining read. I also really enjoyed her growing relationship with Ravi and their banter and bonding, which gave a lighter note to the darkest times. I will definitely be picking up the future novels in this series, and recommending them to my own daughter once she’s old enough to read them.

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