A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson – book review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is, sadly, not a guide on how to murder someone. Though I’ve watched enough How To Get Away with Murder to probably not get caught.

I’m joking, obviously.

The debut novel by young author Holly Jackson is a crime fiction that I had really mixed feelings about throughout.

To set the scene, pretty and popular student Andie Bell was allegedly murdered five years ago. When they discovered her boyfriend Sal Singh’s body in the woods days later, it was assumed his guilt of murdering Andie had driven him to suicide.

But Pippa Fitz-Amobi has decided to use the case as part of her school project. She’s always thought Sal was innocent, and wanted to find a way to prove it. But as she goes digging, there’s someone desperate to stop her investigation. The carpet is filthy underneath Little Kilton, and the rug is about to be lifted. There’s someone who doesn’t want Pippa to find the mess they’ve made.

My initial first impressions of the book, around five chapters in, were poor. I wasn’t instantly gripped, and there was a minor flaw in a defamation law that narked me as a journalist who had sat a law refresher the week before. This could be a. poor research, or b. a deliberate mistake written in for a young and eager character. The writing felt juvenile. I want to point out that the writing wasn’t bad but there’s only so much maturity a story about students can bring. Perhaps A Good Girls Guide to Murder is better suited to those in their mid-late teens. There is mention of rape and drugs, which are mature themes for younger teens – at a guess, I’d say 15+.

When I wasn’t instantly hooked by the book, I had set myself up for disappointment. It certainly wasn’t ‘the best fiction I’ve read since Harry Potter’, as one GoodReads member wrote. But, by around two thirds of the way into Part II of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, things began to gain traction, peak interest and keep me flicking through the pages.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder has you assembling a mental investigation board with push pins and scrawly notes. You think you’ve cracked the case and discovered what really happened, but another piece of information is thrown in which changes the entire narrative. Holly Jackson is thorough, with great attention to detail, covering her tracks – a great trait for a crime writer. Little things early on in the book, like Pippa emailing herself notes – they seem insignificant at the time.

By the end of Part II, there is an element of darkness – think Black Mirror meets I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Who murdered Andie Bell and Sal Singh? Was it Andie’s dad? Her drug dealer? Max, who’d been buying drugs from her? The ‘mystery older guy’? The girl she bullied at school? Said girl’s older brother who so happens to work for the police?

I really enjoyed guessing my way through the book attempting to come to the correct conclusion – which I never did. The truth behind the story was unpredictable, and I adored the urgency with which Pip rushed to follow leads.

There’s some great technology tricks thrown in, that really help the investigation – including printer history, Find my Friends and some old school Facebook stalking, which every teen girl is more than competent in. There’s sketches and diary logs included too – parts of Pippa’s project – which adds to the immaturity of the book, but also makes you feel much more a part of it. You find yourself combing over it looking for extra clues.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder isn’t my usual read, and I didn’t hate it. The first half of the book could have been stronger, but I was thrilled with how the second half of the mystery unfolded. Do you think you could crack the code?

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