TITLE: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder
AUTHOR: Holly Jackson
Publisher: Delacorte Press
PUBLICATION DATE: February 4, 2020
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For readers of Kara Thomas and Karen McManus, an addictive, twisty crime thriller with shades of Serial and Making a Murderer about a closed local murder case that doesn't add up, and a girl who's determined to find the real killer--but not everyone wants her meddling in the past.
Everyone in Fairview knows the story.
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can't shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn't want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you'll never expect.
Setting the Scene
Review in 10 Words (or Less)
A good mystery but it didn’t quite meet my expectations.
Mood Before Reading
Kind of in a slump? I was excited to read this but the last thriller I read, Girl from Nowhere, didn’t really meet my expectations.
July 20 – 21, 2020. I probably would have taken longer to read this if it wasn’t due back to the library on the 22nd. More on this later.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is about Pippa, a girl who decides to try to solve a 5-year-old murder in her small town in Connecticut for her senior project. I liked Pippa and could relate to her. I admired her tenacity and her heart. But I didn’t really connect with her. At least, emotionally. I don’t know, I just didn’t really feel anything for her.
Okay, wait, that’s a lie. The one emotion I felt for Pippa was fear. A whole lot of fear and anxiety. Especially since it didn’t seem like she felt an adequate amount herself. Oh, and I also felt embarrassment on her behalf, as well.
There was so much secondhand embarrassment (how she questioned/interviewed people, for example) and horror movie-esque “no!! Don’t do that!” type of mental screaming that it became so hard to read the story at times. It prevented me from getting too sucked in because every time I was about to, Pippa would have some stupid idea, and I’d need to take a break from the story to mentally prepare myself for whatever fallout it might cause. All those breaks added up and it ended up taking me a lot longer to read A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder than I thought it would. I honestly don’t think I would have finished it as fast if it wasn’t due the next day.
So I guess that despite our similarities, Pippa’s total lack of concern of consequences created a wall between us. Usually, I’d agree that those issues are a very “me” problem (I’m definitely more sensitive to secondhand embarrassment than most readers). Still, after reading the acknowledgments, I wonder if cultural differences played a factor as well. Holly Jackson is British, and in the UK edition, this murder mystery occurs near London, not Connecticut, in the United States. Maybe some subtleties were lost in “translation”?
That said, I really did enjoy this thriller. It’s a pretty unique concept in terms of setup and execution. I liked that sometimes it felt like I was Pippa’s silent partner in her little detective agency. I also loved the mixed media formatting of the book – it’s told in a mix of third-person, focused on Pippa, and first-person journal reports written by Pippa. There are also maps and other imagery that’s sprinkled in throughout that help to add interest and clarify some key facts.
I also appreciate how A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder takes some time to point out the complexities of human nature. I thought it thoughtfully touched upon racism and the role of journalism in crime-solving.
And the ending, well, it was pretty satisfying. I wouldn’t say that I was blindsided by the twists, but they were pretty decent, and it is by no means a perfect ending. It definitely could have been closer to perfect without the romance. Let’s just say I don’t think that the relationship development between the new couple was advanced enough for their love to feel convincing.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a great thriller that’s told in an interesting way. The mixed formatting adds a new layer to the mystery but I wish there was more character development and less secondhand embarrassment.