Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on May 2, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 389 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
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?
There’s nothing like reading a book that completely pulls you out of a reading slump, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson did the trick for me while in a anxiety induced quarantine reading slump that lasted throughout most of March. I enjoy the thriller genre but rarely find them to be 5 star reads for me, however this story managed to satisfy and surprise me, and even though I “guessed” some of the mystery (which can be a little disappointing) there were still several twists I did not see coming!
Following protagonist Pippa, a high school senior in New England, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder has a very similar vibe in some ways to the first season of the podcast Serial, which I know has been many people’s first foray into true crime (including mine!) While the “case” that’s at the center of the plot shares many similarities with the case featured in Serial, I was glad to find that the story had its own unique elements too. Pippa is researching a five year old suicide-homicide that happened in her otherwise sleepy suburb, and while her teacher warns her not to breach any ethical boundaries (including contacting the families of the victims), Pip is relentless in her quest for the truth. While at times it seemed a bit far fetched (Pip does some very brave/stupid things sometimes to progress the plot), it was also fascinating because in this day in age there are folks who are super into true crime who have taken it upon themselves to research cold cases and potentially make discoveries that law enforcement may have missed. I really enjoyed how the narrative was broken up with Pip’s case log entries, her diagrams, maps, emails, notes, etc. It made the mystery feel more immersive and helped the story move along at a fast paced clip.
The mystery itself was extremely well written. There were a lot of great clues and even red herrings peppered throughout, and as a reader I felt satisfied with the ratio of things I was able to pick up on and guess correctly and things that surprised me. I enjoyed that Pip teamed up with Ravi, the little brother of the supposed “murderer,” and that the narrative touched on the stigma that his family has had to endure the past five years as everyone has believed his older brother killed an “innocent” girl. I also enjoyed how the narrative painted many characters in shades of grey, and there were really no suspects who were all good or all bad, but who were nuanced and varied in their motives, behaviors and reasoning for doing things.
Even though the story was a mystery/thriller, it also still had strong contemporary elements and I feel like I got to know Pip and her family and friends pretty well, which was refreshing as often times in mystery stories it can feel as though the protagonist is a merely just a vessel for the plot. I enjoyed Pip’s supportive and warm family, her love for her dog, her devotion to her friendships, and her dedication to her schoolwork.
The pacing of this story was really phenomenal, and there wasn’t ever a moment where I felt it stall or felt that it was too rushed- it had the perfect balance of sleuthing balanced out with situations a teen would also be dealing with (like college applications). I read the entire story in just 2-3 sittings which was honestly quite a shock considering I had been in a month long slump at the time!
Overall: A really excellent mystery that will keep readers engaged and enthralled! I’m interested to see how the author turns this into a series!