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 crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final 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 Pip from the truth . . . ?
What it is: a British YA mystery
Who it’s by: debut British author Holly Jackson
What it’s about: overachieving high school student decides to re-investigate a mysterious murder that ripped apart her town five years ago.
The protagonist is: a Cambridge-bound aspiring journalist looking for justice.
Best bits: gripping plot, solid mystery, compelling characters
Read if: you love teen sleuth mysteries
Skip if: you’re looking for a light read (important spoiler alert: the dog dies)
Ever since I got an advanced copy of One of Us Is Lying and devoured the entire thing in a single afternoon, I’ve been looking for another YA mystery that could grip me in the same way.
Finally, after several years, I’ve found it. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is a cold-case Veronica Mars, with a teen girl investigating a murder under the guise of a school project simply because, five years later, she still thinks it doesn’t make sense. Her main motivation is to find the truth, and the deeper into the mystery she gets, the more determined she becomes.
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is British contemporary YA, which feels like a rare beast these days. In fact, I’m so used to reading American YA that at first I found it weird to read about A Levels and Oxbridge interviews, even though that’s the high school experience that I actually had.
The novel is a mixture of third-person narrative and first person diary entries, as the protagonist Pippa writes notes about her investigation. Many of her interviews are given in transcript form, which works surprisingly well, and overall the journal format is a good way both of seeing what Pippa is thinking about the investigation and helping us as readers keep track of all the different threads. It’s a little jarring every time it goes from the first person notes back to third person, and I never really got used to that, but the third person sections are compelling too.
A murder mystery is only as good as its clues and plot twists, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is solid on that account. There are many intertwined mysteries hidden beneath the surface of this murder, many secrets of familiar characters to uncover, and although I did guess part of the solution midway through the book, I was still surprised by the whole picture, which feels like a great balance. I got to solve it along with the protagonist and feel accomplished with my sleuthing skills, while also getting the gratification of a late game plot twist or two.
With compelling characters and a well-written mystery, A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is a book to consider for cosy evening reading as the nights start drawing in.