A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ TW: rape mention, abuse of drugs, pedophilia
I first saw A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder at my local Barnes and Noble - they were featuring it for the Teen Book Club next month. I didn’t buy it that day, instead deciding to check it out from the library and see whether or not I liked it. My interest further piqued when, upon looking it up in the catalogue, I saw that I would have to wait for a month to get an e-copy sent to my account. Looking back, I now regret the fact that I didn’t buy a physical copy right then and there, as A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder consumed my mind and attention ever since first reading the senior capstone project proposal that jumpstarts the story. Holly Jackson has, with a debut novel that I devoured in one oblivious night, captured my loyalty and enthusiasm for future books of hers. Pippi “Pip” Fitz-Amobi is your average high school senior - a slightly neurotic homebody whose idea of a night out is studying with her best friends, Lauren and Cara at one of their houses. Oh, and for her senior capstone, Pip plans to work the local missing persons’ case that haunts her town - the disappearance and assumed murder of Andie Bell, allegedly by her boyfriend-at-the-time Salil Singh. This cold case from 2014 has made the Singh family pariahs in the town of Fairview, Connecticut, even after Salil’s body is found in the woods. However, Pip feels that the police didn’t investigate enough, especially considering what she knew of Salil from personal experience. With the help of Salil’s brother, Ravi, Pip launches into a full investigation that turns this senior capstone project into the case that will change Fairview forever.
"I don't think I'll actually solve the case and figure out who murdered Andie. I'm not deluded. But I'm hoping my findings might lead to reasonable doubt about Sal's guilt, and suggest that the police were mistaken in closing the case without digging further."
There is so much that I can rave on about in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, but it all would mean nothing if not for the structure of the novel. Jackson crafts together the image of a small town where everyone knows each other. Pip is a very relatable protagonist who also manages to be one of the most extraordinary characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading. She is a very likable character, who is focused on her goal of getting justice for Salil, but also takes into account what is happening around her. Add to that the friendship she cultivates with Ravi, and you have a wonderfully rounded protagonist. The plot itself is also to die for. Every time I read this novel, it astounds me that this isn’t a real murder mystery. It seems like one of those stories that just happens, not something that an author had to work hard to create. In addition, the story itself is not one of those in which you can figure out who did it - instead, you are constantly guessing along with Pip and stunned when new twists come up. But that is the magic of Jackson - she makes the impossible seem both easy and attainable.
"1% of people who disappear are never found. And just .25% of all missing persons cases have a fatal outcome. So where does this leave Andie Bell? Floating incessantly somewhere between 1% and 0.25%."
My only complaint is the romantic subplot that Jackson perpetrates within A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Pip and Ravi end up in a romantic relationship that is hinted at the beginning through various physical cues given by Pip. However, those cues are quickly abandoned in favor of the murder mystery brewing. That would have been fine as it would have reflected real life, where personal relationships of a romantic aspect sometimes get scraped in favor of platonic ones. However, near the end of the novel, Jackson then brings the romantic subplot back in full force in an unnatural attempt to force a greater bond between the two friends. I would have preferred to see more of an evolution in that direction rather than the abrupt departure, and then return, to romance. All in all, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a wonderful debut. Holly Jackson has created a seminal favorite of mine that feels more similar to life than fiction. Pip’s investigation into Andie Bell’s murder is filled with twists and turns that will have you continually guessing along with her. If you can’t put the book down until you finish, don’t feel bad - I repeatedly ignored my boyfriend and his offers of food until I knew what happened to Andie. Even then, I was caught up in a book hangover for the rest of the day. Hopefully, you will be too once you read A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Want to try something similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder? Try these books:
All Your Twisted Secrets, by Diana Urban
One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus
Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson
You Owe Me A Murder, by Eileen Cook