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A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - Reviewed

Updated: Feb 26

The New York Times No. 1 bestselling YA crime thriller, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder,” by Holly Jackson is a fun, fresh read for someone who enjoys crime, murder mystery or thrillers.

In "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder," author Holly Jackson crafts a gripping narrative that defies the conventions of a typical murder mystery. As the title suggests, this novel takes readers on a suspenseful journey, unravelling a complex web of secrets and lies in a small town. Pippa Fitz-Amobi is an A-grade student who decides to choose a five-year-old closed case from her town as her final-year project topic. The case regards the murder of town sweetheart Andie Bell by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who later killed himself. But when Pip begins to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden, she wonders to what lengths they will go to keep it that way. Jackson skillfully weaves together suspense, intrigue, and a touch of dark humour, creating a compelling narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. This book review will delve into the strength of the plot and characters, and the author's ability to deliver a captivating mystery that leaves a lasting impression.

The story is told from Pip's point of view, but she uses her project notes to tell the story to a substantial extent in the book. A significant portion of the story is told through interviews, notes, and articles for research. The use of her project notes and files to tell the story is less frequent when the story nears the end, when the research is over, and when the action begins. I enjoyed this epistolary format because it was refreshing and helped convey the protagonist's thoughts, feelings and hunches about the case without directly stating them.

The plot is marked by its clever use of suspense and a well-paced unfolding of events, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. Jackson skilfully combines elements of mystery, thriller, and young adult fiction, creating a compelling storyline that not only captivates with its unexpected twists but also explores themes of justice, friendship, and the consequences of hidden truths. The strength of the plot lies in its ability to keep readers guessing until the very end, making it a standout in the realm of contemporary mystery novels.

Another strength of the book is its characterization. Pippa is a smart and resourceful protagonist who challenges the norms of her town and refuses to be silenced. Her relationships with other characters, especially Ravi, are well-developed and provide emotional depth to the story. As the book progresses, Pip comes to question her identity more based on the decisions she is forced to make. She becomes increasingly deceptive and wonders when she became a person who can lie so easily. She also encounters various dangerous situations that push her to confront how far she is willing to go for the case. These elements raise questions for both Pip and the reader about who she is based on the situations she must deal with.

Certain parts of the mystery were thoroughly unplausible. A 17-year-old girl would probably never find herself blackmailing a sketchy drug dealer or breaking into a family’s private residence to search for clues. But while the plot points of the novel may not be plausible, they were exciting to experience as a reader and left me on the edge of my seat at times. Additionally, while the characters were 17-year-olds, the way they spoke was often childish, and an unrealistic way of speaking for someone of their age.

In summary, "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder" by Holly Jackson is a gripping YA crime thriller that navigates a small-town murder mystery with clever twists. The novel excels in creating suspense and emotional depth through its unique narrative structure and well-developed protagonist, Pippa, and other characters. Jackson's storytelling prowess makes this book a compelling read for fans of crime and thriller genres, offering a refreshing take on the conventional murder mystery. It is a great read for fans of Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Karen McManus.

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