A story doesn’t have to be complicated, to be good. But a story that is complicated- and reads simply- can be great. This was my experience reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. At first, I thought it would be a simple read; A classic murder mystery, an average girl trying to solve an old crime, a small town surrounded by secrets. I was wrong, because in my opinion, there was nothing simple about it.
Holly Jackson has proven to be a skillful writer. I adored the unusual formatting of this book: the switch between the third person story and the first person reports that main character Pip would write up, documenting every inch of her investigation. I loved the growing list of suspects, constantly switching and rotating as more information was uncovered, sometimes bolded as their level of interest swelled and dwindled. Kept on my toes as a reader, theories began to float through my head as I, with Pip and Ravi, worked to uncover what had gone down on that night five years prior. Each person on the suspect list seemed perfectly capable- I found myself doubting everyone and anyone, devouring each clue with a repeated wave of, “AHA! I know who it is!” only to be proven wrong on the very next page. This is the mark of a good thriller, a great mystery. I don’t know who the better detective is- Pip, or Ms. Jackson.
I always say that the best stories are not about the plot, but the characters. While this novel has an outstanding plot, a twisted storyline that keeps you hooked and wowed by its conclusion, it is the characters that gave it charm. From investigative Pippa, whose motivation in finding Sal’s killer was relatable and spoke to not only what kind of person he was but what kind of person she is, and whose school project and conclusive speech highlighted exactly who she was, to her confused best friends, caught up in a mess they never had a true hand in. Sweet dog Barney, adorable little brother Josh, sketchy party boy Max, and even the mysterious Andi herself- who soon became my favorite flawed character of the novel, and left me with even more questions. Yet my favorite character of all is Ravi. I love when a story is subtle and still manages to make the characters feel like old friends by the end, and that is something this story did exceptionally well. As Pip puts it, it’s the feeling of having wings.
Many mystery/thriller novels tend to get muddy somewhere in the middle, or perhaps in the end result. This was not the case here. While I won’t spoil it, I will say that Ms. Jackson expertly weaved this tale- giving an unexpected and wonderful ending. I don’t think there was a single thing I disliked about the storytelling here, which is high praise for me- I almost always find fault in novels, being a writer myself. I’m pleased to say that this time, I give it a perfect score.
I had high expectations for this novel, and it didn’t disappoint. In truth, the end made tears come to my eyes. Now, it joins my shelves as a clever, funny, thought provoking little murder mystery, one I would gladly read again simply for the charm of it. With unique writing tools in it, I find it inspiring as a fellow writer, showing me new ways of storytelling. But as a reader, I think Pip and Ravi are going to stay with me for a long time to come. Instantly upon finishing A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, I hurried to buy its sequel- Good Girl, Bad Blood. I have no doubt it’ll be as enjoyable as the first.