Book Review – As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Published: 5th August 2021
Genre: Young Adult Crime
Trigger warnings: Injury detail/gore, drug use, allusions to rape

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is haunted by the way her last investigation ended. Soon she’ll be leaving for Cambridge University but then another case finds her. . . and this time it’s all about Pip.

Pip is used to online death threats, but there’s one that catches her eye, someone who keeps asking: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? And it’s not just online. Pip has a stalker who knows where she lives. The police refuse to act and then Pip finds connections between her stalker and a local serial killer.

The killer has been in prison for six years, but Pip suspects that the wrong man is behind bars. As the deadly game plays out, Pip realises that everything in Little Kilton is finally coming full circle. If Pip doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . .

This is an explosive and in many ways jaw-dropping end to a gripping trilogy, such is its boldness and the quite astonishing path it takes. The intensity levels are taken to extremes as the plot takes shocking turns and often ventures into unthinkable territory, with several unsettling moments and the actions of a main character who completes the most profound of transformations.

It is a book that you simply cannot put down without a reasonable excuse, as it builds up to a stage where it becomes fully entrancing and you are left holding your breath at the increasingly crazy events that are taking place. The outcome is something hugely enjoyable and dramatic, and there is a lot in there to admire, such as how it so fearlessly confronts the concept of justice.

As she prepares for her first year of university, all Pippa Fitz-Amobi can think about is the death she has recently witnessed and how she feels responsible. She suffers regular flashbacks and keeps seeing blood on her hands, and in the fallout from the second series of her hit podcast A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, she is also having to contend with a defamation lawsuit brought against her by the despicable Max Hastings.

Still fuming at the recent miscarriages of justice, Pippa starts looking for a new case to investigate with no grey areas in a bid to salvage her damaged worldview and get her life back on track, but soon becomes targeted by a stalker. When she sees a number of headless chalk figures outside her home and dead pigeons left on the driveway, she reports her concerns to the police, who refuse to help due to a lack of proof that these incidents were a threat against her.

After an online search, she and her boyfriend Ravi discover a link to a local serial killer, who used similar techniques towards his five victims and became renowned for his use of duct tape. The murders stopped six years ago and a man named Billy Karras was convicted after making a confession, but when Pippa looks into the case she quickly realises that the real Duct Tape Killer is still at large and she is his next target.

In the wake of an outstanding first book in the series with wonderful twists and turns, followed by a sequel that was addictive and compelling but had its weak points, it was a tantalising prospect to see what this finale would bring. The previous novel ended on an intriguing note as the story took on an unexpected direction, so there was always going to be a continuation of that here. However, it was impossible to foresee how far the author would go – and the answer is much further than you could have imagined.

The early chapters of this one are actually quite slow in terms of pace, although the underlying sense of menace is always there and we get regular insights into Pippa’s damaged state of mind after the recent traumatic events she has witnessed. As the stalker’s threats get more pronounced and the serial killer connection is introduced, that is when the story really starts to get tense.

What happens next shapes the rest of the story and can only be suitably described in one way – OMG. To see it all play out the way it did had me right on the edge of my seat, stunned yet transfixed. This time it was not a question of how it might end, but how it would all be achieved, and it mostly delivers. The intricacy and methodical attention to detail the author shows throughout the case is remarkable and so clever, even if the discussions about murder and dead bodies are a bit messed up.

One of the many repeated memes in this book is ‘full circle’, and that is apt considering how the author revisits minor plot points from earlier in the trilogy to such great effect. These were loose ends that you might have been forgiven for thinking would never be answered, but just like the way Pippa knows her way around a crime scene, no stone is left unturned and that led to an even better payoff.

At times it enters some quite chilling territory. The reveal of the Duct Tape Killer’s identity was not a huge twist – it was the chain of events which followed that provided the shock factor. The messages it looks to convey about the fairness of the criminal justice system are loud and clear, and that is what makes it such a powerful story. In the end, poetic justice is served, albeit in a morally questionable way.

Like the previous two books this one is told in a multimedia format, but to a much lesser extent as there are no production logs or new podcast episodes to be found. Once again it is written entirely in the third person and captures Pippa’s troubled state of mind with a magnificent depiction of post traumatic stress, along with the refrains that play on repeat in her head and act as a coping mechanism.

Despite all of that and her sleep deprived state, she is as formidably sharp and intelligent as ever. It is still rather jarring to see a character who was so lovable at the beginning of the series become so at war with the world to the point that she does things that you would never expect, but at the same time it fits in very well with the narrative. Pippa is a survivor, make no mistake about that.

Ravi plays a much more integral role here and that can only be a good thing. His loyalty and sense of humour in particular make him a delight to read, while we get to see other sides of him here due to the way his life is affected by Pippa’s actions. There was also strong character development in the case of Nat da Silva, whose arc concludes on an empowering note.

There is not a single nice thing you could say about Max Hastings, a pathological individual whose only rival in the awfulness stakes is the Duct Tape Killer himself. Elsewhere, some of the most fascinating scenes involve Detective Inspector Hawkins, whose interactions with Pippa make for wonderfully suspenseful reading, especially near the end.

For such a small town, so much crime seems to take place in Little Kilton and that sense of danger is most evident when Pippa is being pursued by the stalker, and the fact she keeps encountering Max while out running. The writing here is just as intense as the plot, arguably a bit repetitive at times but placing emphasis on Pippa’s raging thought processes.

The atmosphere is much darker than when we were first introduced to all these characters at the start of the trilogy, though addictive in much the same way. As for the ending, it does feel a tad rushed as the long-term consequences of Pippa’s desperate measures remain uncertain, but not to the extent that it harms the story in a serious way or makes it any less exciting.

Overall, a quite pulsating read that any fans of the previous two books in the series will be totally startled by. Things happen that you would never expect and every minute detail is critical to the plot in some way, and if you thought you knew Pippa Fitz-Amobi, then think again. An intense and mostly fantastic book to complete what is in many ways, a rather spectacular trilogy.

I love the trilogy and this was perhaps my most anticipated read of all, and it certainly delivered in terms of thrills and suspense. I was amazed by some of what happened, and very much on edge. Quite dark in places, but a great book.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

6 thoughts on “Book Review – As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

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