Oh MY GOODNESS! This book is just brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I am a long term fan of British Crime Fiction and Drama from an investigating point of view whether from a police procedural perspective or not and this is immediately up there with the greats regardless of its YA status.
The tension, the peril, the unpacking and unravelling clue by clue, the red herrings and dead ends sprinkled through the pages.
Remember the name Holly Jackson, if you love the drama of the excruciating need to know feel of dramas such as Line of Duty and Unforgotten, if you want a powerhouse of intricate plot and pace but with heart like William Shaw and with a female protagonist with pitball-like determination like Lynda LaPlante writes oh boy you are in for a treat.
5 years ago a tragedy struck the Buckinghamshire village of Little Kilton. Golden girl Andie Bell disappeared, and when her friends withdraw their alibi for her boyfriend Sal Singh, it’s presumed murder; yet he commits suicide before he is interrogated.
In the present, no one has forgotten and no one has forgiven the Singh family who are shunned locally. But Pip has burnt with the belief that Sal couldn’t possibly have done it.
For her A-level research project she decides to investigate the event and if she can find the truth after all. Teaming up with his younger brother Rav, she takes them into a dangerous whirlpool of secrets, lies and it how much will it cost to find the truth?
Her eyes traced up the path to the front door. It may only look like a few feet but there was a rumbling chasm between where she stood and over there. It was possible that this was a very bad idea; she had considered that.
If you’ve ever watched ITV Unforgotten you may know how painful it is to wait week to week for the next instalment to uncover the truth behind the cold case. TGGGTM is just like Unforgotten but instead of detectives the protagonist is a girl doing her A-Levels but her tenacity and attention to detail has the same effect of peeling back layers of secrets and lies to the hard uncomfortable truth.
Cleverly told in a range of narratives including epistolary documents of transcripts and notes from Pip’s research diary joined together with narration in common 3rd person past tense it’s the kind of book I LOVE because you can really get in and scrutinise the sources to see what the author is showing not telling in more than narrative description!!
I admit this style leant to my strengths as an Ancient History graduate and I did pick up the very subtle signposting across the novel and documents and I did guess the outcomes BUT this is in no way a criticism!!! I love that the path is seeded and with plenty of red herrings and dead ends to play and reveal and twist further, I deplore a book that keeps the reader in the dark then suddenly the quiet person who no one suspects has been silently and without a sign harbouring a murderous intent.
I prefer the slow burn and teasing reveal building intolerable tension and need to know compared to an out the blue shocker, and oh does Jackson do this well.
Pip felt lighter,the bulk of doubt disappearing…And instead of misplaced speculation leading her astray, she now had another real lead to follow. and one less name on her list.
Pip is just marvellous, I think many older readers will immediately resonate with her whether seeing themselves or wishing to be like her (or both!!) she is a force of nature yet her grit can belie a tender innocence which I really liked that Holly didn’t shy from showing both her astute and naive sides. I also loved the security and love that she had in her strong family as often YA novels don’t have this, strong positive and present relationships with parents aren’t usually the trend!
I especially loved that Jackson makes care to present Pip’s relationship with her step-father who is a true parent to her as much as blood, Victor Amobi and his ‘Get ‘em Pickle!’ love for Pip and security in his own self to cry and be proud is such a wonderful parental and grown up #goals character to see in children’s literature.
The coupling of a female protagonist with extraordinarily determined focus alongside an exquisitely clever and detailed murder mystery plot may seem to be par the course but this is YA, and outstandingly good crime especially as it has skimmed the edges of comfort to make it suitable for a teen (and not been a teen for a while) reader whilst still delivering a powerful and compelling narrative.
I can’t wait to see more from Holly Jackson and it would be pretty amazing if she ever crosses over into adult fiction to pick her up in a crime thriller in the future.
A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson is published by Electric Monkey/Egmont. I received this book through a review scheme this has not affected my opinion.