Ending off the A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder trilogy, I would say the first book is the most mystery-heavy, the second is overall the best one, and this third one I would put as the most outside-the-box and squirmy, because it will make you really unsure by the end if everything was worth rooting for.
It’s been a few months since the events of Good Girl, Bad Blood. Pippa Fitz-Amobi solved the mystery of the disappearance of Jamie Reynolds, marking the second mystery she has solved, but she didn’t finish it unscathed. There is a very controversial past story around the events, and there essentially is no person the world can get behind and root for. We’re talking about someone who helped out with a string of murders but was forced to against their will, and someone who lost their sister from the actions of that person. Pip is haunted by how she feels she could step into the shoes of the one who pulled the trigger and is now on the run.
Now Pip has abandoned her values and uses burner phones to get drugs from the local dealer to get herself through her days. Going off to college soon, she at first halfheartedly starts investigating a new case that happened nine years ago near where she’ll soon be enrolled, feeling doing that will help get everything behind her. But two things are making it not so easy. For one thing, after a stunt she pulled, she is being sued by her former classmate Max Hastings for defamation, after he got away with a rape that caused the chain reaction that killed Andrea Bell all those years ago, and Pip secretly vandalized his house, and not-so-secretly broadcast a contradictory-to-not-guilty confession he gave, to her hundreds of thousands of followers. Plus, there’s been someone who’s been trolling her, getting under her skin with the same message and brand new emails to keep sending her so she can’t block them. But they’ve taken it a step further by also showing proof they know where she lives and there’s something that could happen to her at his or her hands. Pip’s final case ends up her most personal; finding out who is targeting her, and she might end up having to dig up old case files from her previous two investigations to do so.
I base my ratings around two things; was the book or movie successful in what it set out to do, and was it entertaining? The second one of those is usually most important, and oftentimes if one is true then so is the other anyway. And As Good As Dead is a supremely entertaining book. And if what Holly Jackson set out to do was make us uncomfortable with an unconventional ending, she did her job. I don’t know if I’m ever going to forget how this book plays out. Usually, if a book is evil enough to make me think about the twistedness of the world, it’s a new favourite. But when this book crosses the halfway point, (admittedly after a terrifically brutal plot point) the story shifts to something not seen before in this series, and for a lot of it, I kept thinking “This…feels wrong. I can understand the anger, but…I just don’t know about this.” You’ll know what I’m talking about.
But more on what’s really good; this is by far the most frightening of Pip’s stories, because the mental breakdown she finds herself in when feeling she’s at death’s door, every night she goes to sleep potentially her last, is told with undeniable skill. And readers will be in for a surprise if they think this follows the same formula as the last two; it throws an unforgettable curveball, and like the best mystery and crime stories, it has some logistics in place for how to evade the authorities. Also, I have no idea if Holly Jackson planned this whole story from the start, the first murder of Andie Bell tying into the eventual confrontation that happens here, but I’m very certain she has. It is very rare for me to read a series where everything is so expertly connected throughout every single book.
Not only that, but there’s a feeling of following in some poisonous footsteps by the end, and that is both a positive and a negative. The biggest thing about this book is once it switches up the formula we’re used to, it makes us feel that these characters are not the sweet, innocent victims of circumstance anymore. I really badly want to spoil, but I won’t. The uneasiness I felt made this the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder book I give the lowest grade to, but I have to admit it’s the one I’ll be thinking about the most for years to come. It’s hard to stamp a final grade on such a thought provoking book. As I said, for a lot of the book I just had an uneasy certainty this wasn’t the right thing to do. But that is the charm of this book as well; it blurs lines and then erases them into the abyss.
I can’t wait to see what Holly Jackson does next.
If you like this, I’d try the works of Karen M. McManus and The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis