Book: A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder #1)
Author: Holly Jackson
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Pip, Lauren and Cara have a conversation at the beginning of the book which doesn’t revolve around boys.
Content Warnings: Animal death, mentions of sexual assault, drug dealing, drink spiking, mentions of suicide, kidnapping and imprisonment, racism, mentions of revenge porn, student/teacher relationship, past parental death, past car accident, violence
This is one of those books that definitely feels like it’s been everywhere since it’s release, heck even before, I remember it being super hyped up at YALC back in 2018 where they were giving away the proofs with the end pages ripped out. It was sitting on my shelf for over a year and I was always a little nervous of reading it because of the hype (and the fact that YA thrillers have a tendency to underwhelm me) but thankfully, this one ended up being really good! It’s going to be a super difficult one to review without heading into spoilery territory, but I’ll do my best.
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?
As I said before, I’ve had mixed luck with YA thrillers before, largely because I never seem to find them all that thrilling? I loved Dangerous Girls but ever since I read that one, I’ve not been able to find anything that surprised me as much! Thankfully, A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was refreshing in terms of what I’ve come to expect from YA thrillers, it really surprised me, I didn’t work out who did it until right before the end and it was really well plotted and thought out. I had a suspect in mind from pretty early on and I was totally wrong!
The entire premise does require a little suspension of disbelief, given that if her supervisor had followed up with her AT ALL during the course of her project, she would have realised that she’d had contact with the families involved in the case (the conditions on which she was allowed to do the project strictly prohibited her from doing so) and her project would have been stopped. Also as someone who has had to do an ethics review for my Uni final project, I highly doubt that Pip’s topic would have made it through an ethics review given that it covers a fairly recent murder investigation. But then it wouldn’t be any fun if it was completely true to reality now would it?
I also want to note that as a journalist, Pip violates A LOT of ethical (and legal) boundaries in this book which is something I probably wouldn’t have noticed before my degree but after you’ve done a whole module on media law, it’s pretty difficult not to notice! Again, doesn’t really impact on the fun of the story, just something I wanted to note!
The use of multimedia throughout this book was really well done, I loved how she integrated Pip’s production logs and interviews, maps, diary pages, text messages, it really gave the story an extra layer and it was fun to follow all of Pip’s “workings out” along with the main body of the story.
I will however say that the switching between first and third person (first in Pip’s production logs and interviews, third in the main story) was a bit jarring and I would have preferred if Holly Jackson had kept to one kind of perspective throughout. Personally I felt the first person voice was stronger than the third person but then I do prefer first person narration anyway, so that might be my bias talking!
I enjoyed the main characters, I thought Ravi was really sweet and charming and funny. Pip was also a lot of fun, she’s smart and super determined and honestly I have no idea how she didn’t drop down of exhaustion because carrying out a murder investigation whilst getting all her schoolwork done seemed a near impossible task! She did frustrate me a lot at certain points in the book though, when she insisted on throwing herself into danger with no help!
The side characters could have done with a little more fleshing out though, I get it, there were a lot of characters, but it would have been nice if Pip’s friends and some of the murder suspects could have been fleshed out a little more.
I really enjoyed the platonic friendship between Ravi and Pip, it was so refreshing because it’s still annoyingly rare in YA books, so I’m not going to lie, I was a little miffed when it ended up turning romantic (sorry for the slight spoiler, but I need to rant about this) because their friendship was so lovely and NOT EVERY MALE/FEMALE PAIRING IN A BOOK NEEDS TO BE ROMANTIC. PLATONIC PARTNERS IN MURDER SOLVING IS GOOD TOO.
There were some discussions of prejudice and racism and how that played into the original murder investigation, I’m not really in a place to say how well this was done being a white woman (the author is also a white woman) so I’d recommend checking out reviews from POC, particularly Indian reviewers (Ravi is British-Indian) for their thoughts. As well as Ravi, Pip’s stepfather is Nigerian and her half-brother is biracial.
I liked that Pip actually had a present family in this, granted, she does keep them out of the loop in most of the stuff she does, but they are definitely around and there for her when she needs them.
The chapters were nice and short, and though it was a little slow to start (the opening chapters are mainly establishing Pip’s relationships/the murder suspects), once it got going it definitely didn’t let up!
I wanted to briefly bring up one scene that made me feel quite uncomfortable because I think it’s important to talk about: Pip is at a party (as part of the investigation) and she is interviewing a lead, who is super creepy towards her (honestly the whole time I was screaming at her to get out of the situation because it was so clearly off) and he ends up kissing her without her consent. The whole scene made me really uncomfortable and I don’t think it was really necessary to the book to have that happen to Pip.
Also unnecessary to the book? ANIMAL DEATH. NOPE. BIG NOPE. Honestly I very nearly did nope out at that point, because it’s just not something I can really deal with. I’m glad I did finish because it’s a good book, but just a pre-warning to other animal lovers out there.
I wasn’t a massive fan of the epilogue, it all felt kind of abrupt and unfinished and there were a few more loose ends than I would have liked, though I suppose there is a sequel, so hopefully some of those get resolved there!
Overall, this was a super fun, fast paced murder mystery and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author has in store for the next book!
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of my latest Netgalley read, Queen of Volts, the final book in the Shadow Game trilogy by Amanda Foody.