I’m back with another suspenseful thriller to review! And just like my previous one I shall be separating this piece into two parts (one half without spoilers and the other half with) so just like a restaurant with vegan options I am catering for you all!
So let’s get started! A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows the character Pippa as she uses a closed case murder, from her town years previously, as the topic for an extended project. The case involved the supposed murder of Andie Bell by her boyfriend Sal Singh who committed suicide out of guilt. However, during her research she begins to uncover secrets that suggest the case is not what it seems, and consequently becomes an amateur detective Nancy Drew style as she investigates it for herself. Now, I absolutely adore this premise because as a true crime nut myself I feel like if given the opportunity I would attempt (probably really badly) to investigate as well. My love for this premise is solidified more so by Pippa herself; her stubborn and determined character was a breath of fresh air in that she was self assured in herself and her ability to be good at this. I really did connect with her and her unashamedly nosy self; and ultimately it was just really nice to read from a character’s perspective where she was confident, witty, and passionate.
Initially I did have reservations when picking this book up as I was worried that it would present itself as a rather young and naive read; especially as a huge part of this story involved the fact that Pippa was doing this project for school. My reservations were stupid. Her age fell into that category that is often ignored in the young adult genre – Pippa is very much a young adult in the way that she carries herself and the writing style is written in a mature way that fits an eighteen year old rather than a younger teen. That’s not to say that you cannot enjoy this book if you are older or slightly younger as the school factor is not as prominent as you might think. Pippa’s project is independent led and when the focus shifts to this it is written in production logs from a first person perspective; you as the reader still feel as though you are following Pip’s investigation rather than her school journey.
Around mid way through this book I remember having an increasing feeling of tension and frustration because there were so many leads to follow in this ‘who done it’ tale. I know this may not be for everyone but for me this was actually a welcomed feeling because I was so invested in getting to the end. I had zero clue about the direction this book was going and I needed to know who the murderer was – this book is the definition of a page-turner and I finished it in just two sittings!
I feel like there isn’t anything in this book that resembles a dud; the whole thing is just thought out and executed so well (Holly Jackson consider me sold i’m delving into your other works now too)! As already mentioned, I couldn’t predict the outcome because of the way the suspicion shifts from character to character and each one is presented to be morally grey. It’s definitely not a black and white tale and each character gave me their doubts; including Andie Bell herself (the girl who was murdered). I really liked the take that Jackson underwent in questioning why in a tragedy there is a tendency to make the victim into some angelic type of character and how sometimes that shouldn’t be the case. Like I said, this book has depth! To continue this, the book also touches on the representation of race in criminal cases, with the initial alleged killer being of Indian decent and why that may have contributed to the town’s easy acceptance of his guilt.
Ok, this is your warning folks! I’m about to go into detail so if you want off the spoiler train this is your stop. In all honesty, I don’t have many spoilers to talk about as I’ve already covered a lot of what I wanted to say about the book except for a few specific characters (one of which is the killer so I guess that’s the biggest spoiler of all).
When the book revealed the killer I was shocked! It was the father of Pippa’s best friend who we as the reader discounted so early on. I think this is the true beauty and cleverness of the book in that he was initially a person of interest so I never jumped on a character that seemed innocent so that I could preempt the unexpected. Jackson acted as a sleight of hand magician here in that whenever the focus could have been on Elliot (the murderer) it was instead on Naomi (his elder daughter). Naomi as a character was so interesting as she presented so many reasons to be guilty that I was betting she was in on it somehow, but she also gave me so many places to doubt myself. Her nervous energy and overall sweet nature was enough for me to question if she was even capable of murder. But in the wonderful words of Jackson there was always another character to switch the suspicion on that wasn’t Elliot; namely Max Hastings who just screamed ‘icky’.
Then came the second reveal; that there were TWO murderers; Elliot who killed Sal (the alleged murder that closed the case in the first place) and Becca, the sister of the original victim Andie Bell. In order, for this reveal to take place it was established that Elliot didn’t know whether he had killed Andie or not and that is why he killed Sal in the first place; to cover his tracks and pass the blame. It was Becca who found her sister hurt and left her to die.
Unfortunately, there was a section that during the reveal of Elliot that suggested Andie Bell was still alive and kept captive by Elliot. Obviously this is not the case as we find out Becca left her to die, which meant that Elliot actually had another girl captive to pretend to be Andie. I’m still processing how I feel about this Norman Bates move as I think it felt a little rushed to be accepted so easily by the reader. However, having said this I much prefer this idea than the alternative of Andie actually still being alive which would have been way too convenient for the story.
Overall, this book had developed characters with motives that made me question everything! There was a likeable protagonist to follow and connect with and a promise of a little romance without it subtracting any focus from the actual investigation and plot of the book. It wasn’t predictable in any way shape or form with a cleverly written and mature writing style from Jackson. Although I didn’t expand on this detail in the review, I still think it is worthy to note how well Jackson captured a British setting and tone. I very much felt like I was in my home country of England and I believe this contributed to how believable the overall story is because it fits so well. To say I was happy with this book is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed it and devoured each and every page.