Published: 30th April 2020
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Trigger warnings: Missing person storyline, references to rape, drug references, child death
Pip is not a detective anymore.
With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.
But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.
The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?
This is a bold and immensely fascinating sequel which delivers increasing layers of suspense with some unexpected results at the end. In spite of the fact that it does not quite live up to the brilliance of its predecessor, it still retains several of the standout qualities such as a gripping, intricately woven plot, intelligent literary devices, and surprising twists.
The events of the first book and their consequences are extremely present in this particular story and many of them are recounted here for the reader’s benefit, but there is still a lot of originality to be found. This time the focus is on a live case and there is a discernible change in tone with regards to both the characters and the narrative, which was impressively done in many respects, though in others I was left with very mixed feelings.
Just a matter of weeks after unravelling the seemingly closed case of the murder of schoolgirl Andie Bell in the small town of Little Kilton, Pippa Fitz-Amobi has turned what had been her extended project into a hugely successful podcast series. At the same time, she insists that her crime-solving days are now over after the considerable toll that investigation has taken on her and her loved ones.
However, when her friend Connor’s brother Jamie suddenly goes missing one Friday evening and the police refuse to consider it a priority, she is soon convinced to reverse her decision and begin her own investigation as well as a new series of the podcast. After interviewing those closest to Jamie, she finds that he had attended a party that night and had been talking to a mysterious woman online in the weeks leading up to his disappearance.
With the help of her newfound notoriety and the many missing posters she and her friends put up across the town, Pippa hears of numerous sightings of Jamie on the night in question which allow her to draw up a picture of his last known movements. As it turns out, the only thing that could stop her getting to the truth is her growing fury at seeing others cast doubt upon her morals.
The prologue makes for a lovely start to proceedings and a nice reintroduction to the story, but that serenity does not last long as we are soon thrust head first into Jamie’s disappearance. Initially it is a mystery that gives little away and there are some interesting yet obscure clues, but it always feels like the next revelation is just around the corner. That, along with the suspicion that certain characters know a lot more than what they are telling, makes it quite an addictive read.
For a long time it is difficult to see where exactly the plot is leading and what might lift it into something more memorable, but then it takes a dramatic turn about three quarters of the way through which makes the mystery surrounding Jamie part of something altogether more sinister. It all culminates in a twist that I did not see coming, and then another which I did but was nonetheless very effective.
As a live case that also brought the addition of the podcast element, there was a different dynamic to this book compared to the first one and that also led to a number of themes being explored in detail. A lot of this revolved around Pippa and how the Andie Bell case has affected her on an emotional level, but there are also subtle insights towards the power of social media as a force for both good and bad.
Once again the story is presented in a mixed media format, with the regular third person prose interspersed with things such as interview transcripts, web news articles, photographs, and even a fabulous courtroom sketch. Sadly for me however, Pippa’s case notes which were such a highlight of the previous book only feature sporadically on this occasion.
Another slight disappointment is that some characters who brought so much to the first book have much less of a part to play here. Ravi is such a likeable presence but although he is involved in a lot of the story it felt like all he did was either provide Pippa with reassurance or come out with a playful remark every once in a while. Then we have Pippa’s parents, so entertaining in A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder but barely make an impression this time.
Indeed, so much of the emphasis here in terms of character development is on Pippa herself. She is just not the same person as before, as the impact of what happened during the Andie Bell case has turned her bright and sunny persona into one that is increasingly agitated and full of a desire for retribution. Her anger bubbles beneath the surface as the book progresses, where it starts to feel somewhat like Pippa versus the world.
It was an intriguing direction for the author to take with the character and perhaps understandable given the events of the first book, but I must confess that I do not like angry Pippa. She is still brilliant in many ways, standing up for all the right things, being thoughtful towards others and showing impressive crime solving skills, but she goes just a bit too far.
The stormy way in which the book finishes certainly suggests that this plot strand will be central to the final part in the trilogy. There is no cliffhanger; more of a sense of unfinished business which provides a lot of promise, and by now Little Kilton is no longer a calm rural setting. As Pippa’s mood darkens, the place feels suddenly unwelcoming.
Once again the writing is engaging and the story well crafted, with some apparently minor details turning out to be hugely significant later on. There are not many better than Holly Jackson at concocting an excellent mystery, and she does this while giving it a very modern feel. It is not quite as interactive as the previous book and does not keep you guessing in the same way, but in fairness the twist is still memorable.
Overall, this was a tense and sometimes thrilling read with a mystery that really caught fire towards the end. The character development is a little hit and miss and the mixed media format is as enticing as ever, with the steady pace and variety it brings to the story. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was always going to be difficult to top and although it is not as good, there is lots to enjoy and admire.
This was a highly anticipated book and for the most part it did not disappoint as the mystery gradually grew into something quite gripping. There were just a few things missing compared to the first book.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5