In her debut novel, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder,” Holly Jackson crafts a fast-paced and exciting mystery perfect for readers who enjoy twists and thrills.
Five years ago in the town of Fairview, high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself within the next few days. Or, at least, that’s what everyone was led to believe. The incident was all anyone could talk about in Fairview at the time, and even now, fellow student Pippa Fitz-Amobi sees how it still affects nearly everyone around her.
Contrary to what everyone in Fairview thinks about the details of Andie’s death, Pippa believes that there’s something missing from what they know about the closed case. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he had always seemed like a good guy when he was around her. She could never have imagined Sal as a killer, or even a bad boyfriend to Andie. What kind of information were they missing? In her mind, all of the released information about the case just doesn’t align.
For her senior year final project, Pippa decides to reexamine the closed case under the guise of studying the effects of social media on small-town public opinion. However, when someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pippa looking for answers to the case, she finds that she’s brought serious danger into her own life. By the last few chapters, the stakes are high and the suspect list is long as Pippa digs up secrets that were supposed to be hidden forever.
After the bestselling and instant success of this book and the recently published sequel, “Good Girl, Bad Blood,” you will not want to miss out on this series before the conclusion is published later this year.
Young adult mysteries have been gaining popularity over the past several years, and “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” is outstanding on more than one front.
Told through the usual prose and from Pippa’s point of view, the book also weaves in other elements to immerse the reader in the case as the story unfolds. Some of the novel is told through journal entries, charts, newspaper clippings, screenshots of text messages and detective interview transcripts. Jackson’s interesting formatting choices aid the reader in feeling as though they’re solving the mystery along with Pippa.
The audiobook does an excellent job including these elements as well, bringing along a full cast of narrators and sound effects. In all, the multimedia aspect of the novel is an excellent addition to the plot. “Jackson sprinkles the fast-paced narrative with Pip’s notes, project logs, and several cleverly placed red herring all while exploring how the Singh and Bell families suffered in the aftermath of the alleged crime,” said a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
The premise of the story itself is distinct, especially when compared to other popular young adult novels in the same genre. In many other young adult mystery books, such as “One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus, the teen characters often take on a dangerous case by themselves without much reasoning or any way of easily accessing further details of the crime. In “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder,” however, Pippa is able to bypass case barriers because she plans on unveiling more about the Sal Singh case for a senior final project.
Though the original thesis of her project gets swept away after more grueling case details are discovered, Pippa is able to use this project to her advantage in a convincing way. The “project” element allows her to dive into the evidence quicker, rather than having her spend too much time cheating the system to get her first clue.
A prominent factor in the novel’s charm is Jackson’s ability to create and weave twists into the plot on multiple levels.
As Pippa continues to interview people and visit locations where Andie Bell was last seen, she begins to discover that the case she’s trying to crack is much more complicated than everyone in town was led to believe. The stakes are heightened with every chapter, and Pippa finds herself in the middle of personal struggles as she goes a bit too deep into the case. “[This book is] addictive, genius, compelling, and straight up chilling at times,” said young adult author C.G. Drews in her review of the novel. “The clues don’t stop unraveling till the very last page… and I want the sequel!”
Additionally, Pippa and her world are more complexly developed than in many other similar novels. Young adult mysteries tend to include main characters who do nothing outside of attempt to solve the mystery and possibly fall in love, but Pippa is much more than that. She’s a clever, straight-A student who has some interesting friends and a great relationship with her family. However, in a kind of meta way for a young adult mystery, Jackson’s development of Pippa also shows the consequences of immersing oneself too much in a case.
As the mystery unfolds and her senior year progresses, Pippa struggles to determine who she is and what makes her an individual ready to go off to college. These struggles lead to discussions of purpose and self-worth, in addition to allowing Pippa’s character to exist as a heavily determined teen ready to do whatever it takes to resolve an unjust crime.
While Pippa remains the main character throughout “A Good Girl’s Guide for Murder,” the book remains balanced by her interactions with friends and trusted peers. In the first chapter, Pippa meets with several reoccurring characters, such as Ravi Singh, the alleged killer’s brother. In an attempt to clear his brother’s name, Pippa works closely with Ravi to gain the trust of other people who were involved in the case years ago.
Their interactions with Andie’s old friends are often memorable, though they occasionally make it difficult for Pippa to make progress on the case at hand. Ravi and Pippa’s friendship throughout the novel makes for some humorous and heartfelt moments, which are often welcome in a mystery novel with gritty undertones. Their partnership also sets the scene for the premise of the next novel in the series, which is sure to completely diverge from the common teen setting of high school. Ultimately, Ravi is a great character opposite to Pippa, and by the end of the novel, readers will want to know more about their work as a team.
A Gripping Mystery
Kirkus Reviews calls this novel “a treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense,” and you’ll just have to read it to find out why.
Overall, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” is full of twists and turns up until the end of the last chapter, and once you finish the novel, you’re going to want to join Pippa on her crime-solving journey for the rest of the series.