5 star, YA

Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1

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.

This debut had me on the edge of my seat. Hold onto your hats because this was a wild ride that really hit the hype surrounding it.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pip, an amateur sleuth with a slight personal connection to a case that was considered solved in her small town. Under the guise of a school project to look at social media impact on a high profile case, in reality, Pip was going to conduct an investigation to see if Sal Singh, a boy she knew growing up, could really be a cold-blooded killer at heart like everyone thought he was.

I felt indignant on behalf of the Singh family as they were treated as pariahs because of their son’s involvement in the case. While it was never proven in court because he had died, everyone assumed he was guilty without a trial or verdict. And any association with him (aka the family) meant they were written off as well. So when Pip ends up bringing Sal’s younger brother, Ravi, along in her search for truth, I thought that was an amazing pairing.

Let me just say that their relationship was, for the most part, platonic for most of the book. They were partners in crime solving. He listened and helped her bounce off ideas when they were stuck for a new lead. She never treated him differently because his last name is Singh (also, some people of course in small town America were racist on top of their unfair judgments). But I’m so glad that it had a turn for romantic (a very little) in this book because it made sense to me. They understood each other, and when Pip unwittingly put herself into danger, he was her line of safety and he always came to find her. Their dynamic was fun, oftentimes sarcastically teasing one another, but they always had each other’s backs when the going got tough. And trust me, did it ever!

But back to the crime solving itself. If you know me, I absolutely adore mysteries and their whodunnits. I love to see if I can predict who committed the crime and why. It’s the same reason I love procedural crime shows. But not everyone executes it well. Or if you’re like me who has read so many, you start to see patterns more easily than someone newer to the genre.

Well, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder completely blew me away. Not only was it not predictable in the way I was thinking (I did guess something right in the end), literally everyone was a potential suspect. I mean, Pip even had a list of suspects she wrote out and added or crossed off as the investigation continued. Everyone had a plausible motive, and the timeline was so hard to piece together that night that everyone could’ve had opportunity. The pacing was superb as the attention was always on the next piece of the puzzle without dropping the appropriate level of suspense.

What makes this unique from other YA mysteries I love is the format it’s written in. While you have most chapters in the standard paragraph form, Pip’s case entry logs for her project littered throughout the chapters gave it that extra spice. I loved reading her unfiltered thoughts about the case and her interview transcripts that added additional, relevant information for us readers to mull over, but in a different way so it keeps us on our toes for what information really is important and what is just a red herring.

All I can say is, I stayed up all night to finish this book because it was just too good not to. I didn’t just want to know who was the killer, I needed to know. The hype around this book and series really is there for a reason, and the fact that this was a debut blows things even further out of the water. Holly Jackson is a household name to look for in the future, and I can’t wait to see what is next for Pip and Ravi!

Overall Recommendation:

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is everything anyone has ever raved about it. Clever in its plot and perfect in its pacing, Pip aims to re-open a closed case with the help of the accused’s brother. But as they dig into the events of the night that led to a high school girl’s death, more suspects become plausible and clearly they’re on the right track because someone doesn’t want them to continue their investigation. Filled with suspense and wonderful characterization, I couldn’t help but follow with Pip and Ravi as they work together to solve this before something stops them. Their dynamic was akin to the greatest crime solving partners on TV procedurals and I’m so happy that I fell in love with them both amidst the craziness that is this case. Keep your hats on because this is sure to be a bumpy, hectic ride!

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