I’ll have to check the statistics, but I think this sequel to A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder might just be the best mystery novel I’ve ever read.
In the last book, straight-A good-girl-type Pippa Fitz-Amobi decided on her high school capstone project to investigate a five-year-old killing of high-school sweetheart Andie Bell, the perpetrator Sal Singh supposedly doing the murder and killing himself afterward, leaving the rest of the Singh family hated by the town of Fairview. Pip got obsessed but was able to actually uncover the real story and real people behind it, and it’s gotten universal attention. It’s been several months since then and Pip is about to release a podcast of the story. Her new boyfriend, Sal’s younger brother Ravi, suggests the title “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder”.
Pip now has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and she’s prepared for the apparent death threats and ridicule that comes with that, trolls trying to discredit or scare her because she’s a girl with power to her name now. I typed “with a bit of power” in that last sentence near the end, then got rid of the “a bit of” because that’s not true; she’s got enormous power now.
Thing is, she has now retired from being a detective. Her ten-year-old little brother was apparently inspired by this to investigate and interrogate classmates to find a stolen pencil sharpener. And Pip herself did not solve the murder unscathed; she nearly went insane, lost her beloved dog, and was nearly murdered herself. The thing is, after a party and memorial honouring Sal, Pip is visited in the night by her friend Connor Reynolds, telling her in fright that his older brother, 24-year-old Jamie Reynolds, is currently missing. Jamie has run away from home before over feuds with his father and yet has always come back later. But Connor says this one feels different. Pip has to decline at first, but when the police are too preoccupied with other cases and Pip realizes after the 72-hour mark, which they haven’t hit yet, Jamie could be gone for good, and that the power of her new following could make a grand difference, she decides to take on the case, this time a fresh one rather than a buried one.
I read A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder a few months ago and awarded it three and a half stars out of four, and most of my praise was from its complex yet able-to-follow mystery with us caring about the outcome due to the unfair treatment of the Singh family, yet it was not the easiest book to start because it dives right into interviews and lists of facts before we can care. Made it more heavy-handed than a Karen M. McManus mystery. And it’s been a couple years since this book was published so there was no way Holly Jackson would’ve known my criticism, but this sequel welcomes us into this next chapter exactly as I was originally hoping. And with Good Girl, Bad Blood, she has surpassed the works of McManus, my favourite mystery author.
The beauty of this mystery is it’s sophisticated but far from impossible to follow. We retrace Jamie’s steps, we track down abnormalities at his house, and as they pop up we store them away, and the clues are memorable and weird enough for us not to forget about them so easily. The book also is not only about Jamie; Pip and Ravi lightly explore their relationship, she grieves for Jamie with Connor’s family in case he’s really dead, we try to amend things with a character Pip is not on good terms with…and yet all of this is welcomed into the mystery rather than distracting from it. This isn’t a book that has all the clues there in the open for us to theorize; there’s a story from the sidelines we don’t yet know about. I did kind of wish we had some juice on it, but realistically, Pip can’t figure out everything at once. Some stories take a bit of time before they’re uncovered.
The book’s last 70 pages are some of the most shocking and perplexing bits of storytelling I’ve read in years. Like pretty much every mystery novel, we find out who the perpetrator is by the end, and thoughts were going through me about how maybe this character’s previous actions were not legitimate and I slapped myself thinking I should’ve smelled a rat. Then, without giving too much away, we hear the explanation and that thought is thrown right back at us. We’re then faced with asking us who we root for in this situation and what we would’ve done if we were in the shoes of the characters. The best stories built on sophistication get you to relive the lives of various characters so effectively that you consider the world and people around you in new lights. And Good Girl, Bad Blood manages to do this not throughout the whole book but the sole climax.
Not only is this a fun, clever and suspenseful story with the perfect blend of horror, drama and honesty, but there are more than enough hints about unfinished business that will come full force in the near future. The minute I can, I’m getting the last book. I’m so excited to dive into Pip’s next investigation.