A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson (Good Girl’s Guide To Murder #1)
Publisher: Electric Monkey (Egemont UK)
Release Date: May 2, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder
Cover Design: Lizzie Gardiner
Summary: The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.
But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is the kind of mystery that you won’t be able to put down! Perfect for fans of small town mysteries, Pippa Fitz-Amobi plans her senior project around solving the 5-year old murder case of Andie Bell! But once she dives deeper into her project she begins to realize, someone out there doesn’t want her to solve it. Through immersive storytelling, twists, turns, and a brilliant blend of journalism and true crime, Jackson’s debut is not one to miss!
The best kinds of mysteries are the ones that keep you up till early hours of the morning to piece everything together (like this one― I stayed up till 1 a.m. to finish it)! Jackson’s debut is brilliantly crafted in how it’s layered and uncovers more details, that begin to paint a clearer picture as to what really happened to Andie Bell.
Set in the fictional small town of Little Kilton, Buckinghamshire we learn Pippa is working on an independent senior project for her school. As an aspiring journalist, she decides to solve the closed case of the 2012 murder of Andie Bell. Everyone in town assumes her boyfriend, Sal Singh was the murderer. But Sal was always known as a kind, friendly guy, so does it add up?
Pippa isn’t so sure! Consumed by the case, she’s eager to solve it because she knows Sal wasn’t the real killer. Early on in the book, we’re presented with mixed media from transcripts to reports, messages, even occasional diagrams that adds another layer of intrigue solving the case alongside her.
What I appreciated about this book is how Jackson just throws us right into the plot early on and has the characters develop slowly throughout Good Girl’s Guide! It made the reveals and gaps in the case that much more intriguing, because these characters have many secrets/hidden dimensions. Jackson does a wonderful job at layering all these facts, figures, and suspect stories to still leave the reader completely surprised as to where it’s going.
Each addition to the case just continued to present theory after theory, to the point where I was unsure of what to believe! It’s that kind of uncertainty that made this such a gripping read. Also, I’ll actually try to keep this review pretty vague and spoiler-free because I felt what made it such a great reading experience was knowing only the basics!
Jackson does a spectacular job at misdirecting the reader and leaving you with tons of suspects and clear evidence, yet you’re still left guessing for a good majority of the book! That’s what I love and look for in mystery― even as I was solving the case along with Pippa, my guess as to who killed Andie was constantly changing.
Now, it’s a fact that I hardly ever read mysteries (at least the contemporary ones). If I do, it really depends on the summary and as someone studying Journalism I was immediately captivated by the use of journalism, investigative reporting, etc. I appreciated all the journalism details that reminded me of topics I’ve learned in my major like FOIA requests, approaching sources, the importance of wording in reporting, and overall just incorporating this area of study in such a deeply explored way.
As mentioned in my Backlist Bookshelf post, there’s a present, obvious presentation to the story that feels a lot like a true crime podcast, where everything just fits so well! That’s because Jackson herself is a big fan of those types of podcasts. As mentioned in my post, Jackson highlights Serial as a big influence for Good Girl’s Guide.
I also wanted to highlight that early on as I read this book, I originally started the US edition. However, when I found my UK copy it was clear that details of the story and even character-specific moments from Pippa in the text, were altered for the US audience. For example, in the UK edition its set in Buckinghamshire and for US audiences its set in Connecticut. Now with that in mind, I couldn’t help but feel that the original version was the best reading choice, it felt like the prose had more freedom to add more dimensions to Pippa’s personality. There’s just a unique voice to it, that for me made the story even more engaging.
There were moments Pippa breached some ethical guidelines in trying to reach sources, as did the local reporter Stanley Forbes when we learn how he first reported on the case. He clearly had racist views, which in my opinion biased his reporting extremely. So, being one of the main, prominent reporters it was no surprise the town looked to Sal with such guilt. Reading that moment from an aspiring journalist perspective, did not sit right with me. Where Pippa on the other hand, sticks to uncovering the facts and doesn’t twist the narrative to fit her desired outcome–I appreciated how unbiased she was in uncovering the truth.
Pippa begins reaching out to Ravi Singh, Sal’s younger brother, one who prefers to avoid the public eye. But when Pippa explains what she’s learned and the two slowly become friends, they decide to work together!
This book weaves in, but never makes it too obvious, of the central themes of friendship and family. Ravi has felt guilt, sadness, even pain for the things left unsaid when Sal and Andie’s case was closed. But, because of Pippa’s help, he realizes he can finally get the answers he’d been searching for. They become like partners in crime, their friendship was so organic and one of my many favorite dynamics of the story (loved when he kept calling her ‘Sarge’ 😂). Also, the family dynamics between Leanne, Victor, Josh and Pippa were nicely crafted and they (alongside the other characters) really came to life!
Another positive that I think is due to Jackson’s writing is because I was fully invested in each clue that was uncovered, I hardly noticed the POV change between the main story (3rd) and Pippa’s 1st-person reports. She knows how to keep her audience engaged and the flawless shift between perspectives made for an opportunity to learn even more about Pippa’s thought process.
While the writing isn’t the most descriptive, it was crisp and left just enough to allow the reader to envision the setting, the chilling, fun, and mysterious atmosphere in their own way!
As we’re presented with the basics of the case, we quickly dig deeper into both Andie and Sal’s past. This leads us to wonder how their friendship circle and other people in their lives may have been involved.
Pippa’s suspect list continues to grow and that makes us begin to question everyone. There’s tons of twists and turns as Pippa is also trying to track the killer who begins to target her and scare her into dropping the case. As the messages become more and more serious, we begin to fear if their closer than we think and if Pippa will be brave enough to continue seeking the truth!
Now onto my personal gripes (*with minor/vague spoilers). I will say this is easily one of my new favorite YA Mystery novels and I will absolutely be reading the future books!! However, I noticed there’s many questions Jackson presents in the text (mainly in Pip’s logs and throughout some chapters). My main issue with that is, it seemed to be more about diverting your attention when we had already learned the information and so to me, it felt a bit repetitive as it pointed it out again. Also, while the cast is all great, it did feel like we only knew certain characters (like Naomi, Howie, Cara, etc.) only on a surface level. It seemed like the reader only got to know certain sides that only one side to their personality and how it served the story. Depending on the scene, it would have been nice to get more depth to their character.
Another issue (this is more of a specific personal gripe) was that in other than just a brief flashback, we never really got a clear explanation as to WHY Pippa is so interested in this case. Is it more of her personal love of true crime? (That’s really cool), but it seemed like Pippa’s enthusiasm for this case overshadowed any deeper reason for why SHE needed to be the one to solve this crime.
My other issue was that while the last 1/4 is where the mystery really begins to make sense, it was really rushed and our questions are given answers. But as with any mystery, it is surprising even if it came a bit too quickly.
However, this clearly such a well-researched, journalistic-style mystery, and really is such a gripping, undoubtedly thrilling tale. Its masterfully crafted and I’m thrilled this is a series! Looking forward to seeing where Pippa’s journey is headed next in Good Girl, Bad Blood!
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is reminiscent of Serial as it blends true crime, journalism, and a page-turning mystery you won’t be able to put down! Well-crafted, intriguing, and filled with a great cast, a quirky main character who will lead you through this mystery that only gets more complex with each chapter! A unique mystery debut sure to leave readers satisfied!