You might or might not remember, but I adore Karen McManus’ work, especially One of Us is Lying. I became interested in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson partly because it sounded similar in theme and character. If you like teen investigators or liked One of Us is Lying, you might like Jackson’s work too.
Here’s the story: Pippa has spent the last 5 years hearing about Andie Bell’s murder, and every time it’s the same story: her boyfriend Sal met her at night, killed her, hid her body, and within a few days was so overcome with guilt that he took his own life. But Pippa knew Sal, and she’s never quite believed it. When she gets a chance to do a senior capstone project on a topic of her choice, she jumps at the opportunity to investigate the case for herself, hoping to cast doubt on the official version. With help from Sal’s younger brother Ravi she digs into everything she can find, requesting records, interviewing Andie’s friends, and just generally turning over rocks that her suspects would rather she not look under. Slowly they put together a much darker picture of who Andie Bell was and why she died, and as anonymous threats arrive Pippa has to wonder if she’s taken on more risk than she can handle.
I liked this book a lot, for the skilled writing and the well-drawn characters; I rooted for Pippa, Ravi, and their friends and I mourned their losses along with them. I especially liked that Pippa had devoted friends, despite being the hardworking bookworm, and that she was compassionate as well as determined as she investigated such a sensitive topic. Jackson adds in realities of life, such racial prejudice, sexuality, blended families, and death. And, with no spoilers, the resolution was as unexpected as you’d want it to be after all that buildup. All in all, very effective, but at the same time it didn’t really compete with One of Us is Lying for my favorite YA mystery – mostly because Jackson stuck solely to one character’s perspective instead of alternating voices like McManus; as a writing style I prefer the breadth of viewpoints you get from an ensemble cast.
If you’re a mystery reader, a reader of young adult books, or a McManus fan like me, don’t miss out on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, or its sequels Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good as Dead, expected this fall.