Published: 2nd May 2019
Genre: Young Adult Thriller/Mystery
The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.
But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pippa from the truth?
You will rarely come across a more enjoyable murder mystery than this. It is the kind of book that commands your absolute attention from the very first page to the last, and keeps you guessing to the extent that it is on your mind even when you have put it down. That, combined with wonderfully engaging writing and an impeccable attention to detail, made it a truly absorbing read and I almost did not want it to end.
Each and every aspect of the book was more or less spot on. There are some surprising twists and several moments of considerable tension, as an exceedingly complex mystery unravels in a pulsating manner that kept me on the edge of my seat. The addition of entertaining, well developed characters also makes it extra special, as does the use of mixed media to tell the story.
It all takes place in the small and relatively affluent Buckinghamshire town of Little Kilton (Fairview, Connecticut in the US edition), a place where everyone seems to pass their driving test at the earliest possible opportunity. Five years ago, a schoolgirl named Andie Bell was murdered. Her body was never recovered, but the police investigation concluded that she was killed by her boyfriend Sal Singh.
Sal was himself found dead days later in an apparent suicide, with Andie’s mobile phone beside him and her blood beneath his fingernails. Almost the entire town is convinced of Sal’s guilt, but A-Level student Pippa Fitz-Amobi believes he may be innocent, and begins to look into the case for her extended project.
Pippa leaves no stone unturned in her attempts to discover the truth, tracking down everyone who was connected with Andie and Sal; recording all of her thoughts and findings in her production log. With the help of Sal’s brother Ravi, she draws up a list of potential suspects, but as she gets closer to finding out what really happened, her life begins to come under increasing threat.
The plot is beautifully woven together, and with a huge amount of intricacy. I loved how the stakes grew higher as it wore on, as Pippa unearths several dark secrets, along with just the sheer number of twists and turns. There is barely a single character that you can trust, or be convinced is telling the full picture about how close they were to Andie, and the events that led to her death.
The twists that arrive near the end are quite disarming, and at this point I was virtually holding my breath and living every moment as it unfolded. It gets very dramatic indeed and although there were one or two things that I had just about worked out, others were much more difficult to see coming. Looking back, there are some very subtle clues scattered during the narrative, but in truth the author is almost always a few steps ahead.
For me, the resolution was not totally flawless and it did raise some question marks in my head, but generally this book and its entire plot are outstanding. The fact it is classed as a young adult thriller and is aimed slightly more towards that audience only makes it more engaging and arresting, and the author executes a fantastic balance between exploring serious themes alongside the many, more lighthearted moments.
The main narrative is written in the third person, focusing on Pippa and her encounters as she works on the project. In between chapters, we are frequently given an extract from her production log, where she charts all of her ongoing thoughts on the case, records the transcripts from her interviews, and lists the possible suspects.
I found the production log sections quite interactive and very entertaining to read. Pippa is extremely smart and able to deduce things in double quick time, so that made it extra satisfying whenever I noticed something important just as she did! The inclusion of text messages, news articles, and maps also helped aid the storytelling.
The production log also enhances Pippa as a character, and in the main I found her very likeable. I liked her tireless work ethic as well as her fierce dedication to finding out what happened to Andie, which prompts a similar reaction from the reader. Meanwhile, she is also highly principled and has a delightfully easy-going relationship with her family and friends. Her father Victor is a particular highlight.
Ravi was another brilliant character, and quite possibly my favourite. He is so loyal and caring, and I loved the dynamic he had with Pippa, which was fairly understated in a very good way. As for all the others, they are well developed yet hiding secrets, and there is more to several them than originally meets the eye.
I liked the setting of Little Kilton, which has the appearance of a peaceful place but also has the spectre of Andie’s death looming over it. As Pippa’s investigation intensifies, the town gains a threatening atmosphere, which is especially pronounced once she realises the killer is on to her and adds to the tension.
As stated before, the attention to detail is astonishingly good. Every small piece of information that you come across retains a degree of significance for later on, and honestly I am just a little bit in awe of how this story was crafted. The amount of thought that went into this, and to combine it with such enthralling writing; that really is impressive.
Overall, this a tremendous read that was outstanding and fulfilling in equal measure. It is a story and a mystery from which can never let go until you get to the end, with twists aplenty and a lovely style of writing. Pippa may be described as a prodigy during the book, but the real prodigy is Holly Jackson, and I now cannot wait to read the sequel.
Although there nothing described in graphic detail, there are a lot of sensitive topics that are either portrayed or alluded to in this book. The content warnings include drug use, sexual references, cyber-bullying, anxiety, animal death, child death, rape, and false imprisonment.
Holly Jackson grew up in Buckinghamshire but now lives in London. She has always been interested in writing stories and completed her first attempt at a novel at the age of 15. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was her first published effort, and that was followed by the sequel, Good Girl, Bad Blood in 2020.
In her spare time, she likes to play video games, watch true crime (hardly surprising after reading this!) and point out grammatical mistakes in street signs.
In short, an absolutely excellent read and one of my favourites of 2020. I may have had a few little qualms with the ending, but the rest is just so perfect that there is only one rating that I could possibly give 😉
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐