A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder: what a sexy title! Holly Jackson nailed it with her debut, a young adult mystery novel that I’d call Veronica Mars meets Sadie.

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder - Holly Jackson - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder here.
(And here’s a good girl’s guide to affiliate links: there’s a few on this page, and when you make a purchase after clicking through, I’ll get a small cut for referring you.)

The story is framed as a high school project for Pippa, a budding Murderino. Five years ago, a girl in her local area was killed (presumably, because a body has never been recovered); Pippa thinks the wrong man was accused of the crime. Her teacher has tried to dissuade her from using this particularly horrific subject for a school project, but Pippa forges ahead anyway. The “production log” for her project becomes like a journal, recording the rest of her POV directly, while the narrative is otherwise third-person.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is set in the fictional town of Little Kilton (in the original UK edition, anyway). The victim of the crime that Pippa investigates is Andie Bell, a 17-year-old town sweetheart. Everyone believes that Andie’s boyfriend, Sal, is the one who killed her – but Andie’s not so sure.

What really happened to Andie Bell on the 20th April 2012? And – as my instincts tell me – if Salil ‘Sal’ Singh is not guilty, then who killed her?

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder (Page 20)

Jackson quickly establishes herself as queen of the mic-drop. Every single one of the early chapters ends on some kind of cliffhanger. First, it’s Andie approaching Sal’s brother and telling him she believes his brother is innocent, and she thinks she can prove it. Next, it’s a clue in the circumstances of the discovery of the crime. It’s a really effective way of hooking the reader in, and keeping the pages turning.

I really liked the banter between Pippa and her besties, Lauren and Cara. They’re the least infuriating teenage girls I’ve read about in a long time (which is no short order). Their dialogue was snappy, believable, and made me chuckle on more than one occasion.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder starts to get a bit overcomplicated about two-thirds of the way through, though. There are a lot of players, and a lot of criss-crossing connections between them. Jackson did her best to feed exposition into the narrative, but the whole I Know What You Did Last Summer-element just muddied the waters too much.

I also want to lodge an official complaint about a devastating dog death, in the latter part of the book. It was needlessly cruel, and had me chasing my own puppy around the house demanding snuggles.

I did pick the “real” culprit(s?) fairly early on, so the “big reveal” at the end of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder wasn’t much of a surprise. Also not a surprise: the sequels. All of the primary mysteries are resolved, but Jackson left plenty of stones unturned for future books. It’s now the first in a series of three novels and one novella (see: Good Girl, Bad Blood, As Good As Dead, and Kill Joy).

Apparently, BBC Three has picked up the rights to a television adaptation of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, and they’ve got a script and producers lined up and everything. So, keep your eyes peeled, because it’ll probably hit your screens soon.

All told, I didn’t love the dog death and at times it was A Bit Much, but A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder was otherwise a fun and compelling read, probably the best young adult mystery I’ve read in recent memory.

My favourite Amazon reviews of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder:

  • “I literally stopped listening to this book so I could watch a British woman in booties play the glass harmonica on face book… This book was so poorly written I couldn’t go back to listening to it… So I watched the glass harmonica lady 2x and then tried to figure out how to get my audible credit back… Trying to get the credit back was the most exciting thing about this book.” – Phil & Mel
  • “If you have a moral compass, do not let your young teens read this.” – Mom