I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this popular YA mystery trilogy. I finished it last summer, and I was impressed by the psychological development and plot intersections that went on over the course of three books. Check out my spoiler-free Series Review of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder!
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Series Review of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
I finished this three-book mystery series in the summer of 2021, but recently I’ve seen it all over social media, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it, as both a mystery lover and a former all-YA reviewer.
This series review will be SPOILER-FREE, but if you want to discuss spoilers, I am working on a Series Spoiler Discussion Post for the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder trilogy.
Table of Contents for Series Review of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Can a YA Mystery Ever Be As Good As An Adult Mystery?
Review of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
A Review of Good Girl, Bad Blood
MY Review of As Good As Dead
MOVIE NEWS for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Can a YA mystery ever be as good as an adult mystery?
As I’ve said MANY times, as a mystery fan, I feel that YA mysteries have inherent limitations. How can teenagers really solve crimes in plausible ways? And can YA books be dark enough to satisfy die-hard mystery and thriller fans?
In any case, in YA mysteries, I’ve seen a lot of teen hackers cracking into police computers (really?) A lot of high schoolers doing police and DA’s office internships (maybe in a really small town, but I also feel the liability issues wouldn’t allow it). Some of YA mysteries can be fun, but also seem very “Scooby Doo,” and I’m a HUGE Scooby fan.
But it’s like Holly Jackson crawled into my brain, wrote down all my snarky issues, and decided to solve them.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
You can read the book’s synopsis and my full review of Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, but here are my thoughts after reading ALL the books.
As I said, I have read quite a lot of YA in my time, and I feel that not only is A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series good as a mystery, it also does a pretty good job of being a YA trilogy.
The first book in the YA trilogy is the set-up book. The main character(s) are presented, the premise is introduced, and we are hooked in.
In book one, Pippa Fitz-Amboi IS a “good girl,” thought that is a somewhat loaded term. She’s a good student who doesn’t really drink or party. No boyfriend, just a group of good friends.
For a senior year project, she chooses to re-investigate the case of Andie Bell, a teenager who disappeared from Pip’s small town about four or five years before the events of the story.
This is a genius move on the part of author Holly Jackson.
Unlike a lot of mysteries, in which a teen detective can’t plausibly get information, the case of Andie Bell is closed. Andie’s boyfriend, Sal, killed her and then committed suicide. So Pip is able to use FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act) to get records. And because she’s such a good girl, she’s able to charm people around town into talking to her for a school project.
This series review won’t have spoilers, but in the course of the book, Pippa learns about some dark stuff going on in her town. Drug sales, sexual assault, bullying and more.
The plot of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a classic detective plot. Pippa methodically goes around collecting information. She makes a murder board. Pip gets to know Sal’s younger brother, Ravi.
She finds out exactly what happened to Andie Bell, but also makes some enemies along the way.
As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson
In YA trilogies, we talk about “middle book syndrome.”
It’s a thing. The series has started off with a bang. There’s more story to tell, and yet it’s not time for the dramatic conclusion.
In the blockbuster YA fantasy trilogies of the 2000s, we get a plot repeat (like the fact that Catching Fire is really just Hunger Games all over again). If there’s a romance, the lovers must separate. Preferably in a dramatic fashion.
Mostly, there is just a lot of regrouping from book one and waiting for the good stuff to start.
Good Girl Bad Blood was definitely my least favorite of the three books.
But, thinking back, it did achieve some important things in both character and plot development.
The events in Good Girl Bad Blood take place right after the events of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
Pippa is now internet famous for solving the Andie Bell case. She’s turning her project into a podcast.
Without spoilers, the Andie Bell case resulted in multiple arrests for different things Pippa dug up in the course of her investigation. She’s closely following the case of one of these people, who is now on trial.
She’s also asked to help find a missing person, someone who has no relation to the Andie Bell case. This bothered me a little (and I can discuss it in more spoiler-y detail in my Series Spoiler Post.) All I can say is wow, there are a lot of shady goings-on in Little Kilton UK/Fairview, Connecticut. Just a lot of stuff.
I liked the podcast elements of the book, but at the same time they were a bit filler-y.
There are MORE anonymous threatening notes. Holly Jackson really loves these, but to me they are a cheesy staple of Hallmark Mystery Movies, Scooby Doo, and Nancy Drew.
Sorry, Holly. I love your work and we will have to agree to disagree on this.
The book ends with something dark and violent that Pip is witness to. This will be important for book three.
Book three of a trilogy should bring everything together: character development, plot threads, and themes.
As I point our in my Review of As Good As Dead, I actually resisted reading this after seeing some reviews that mentioned that this last book ruined the character and the series.
Yes, the “good girl” is going BAD.
As Good As Dead is dark. It’s dark for YA and it’s dark for non-YA.
Pippa morphs fully from a plucky teen detective into a cynical person who has lost faith in the system.
She is supposed to be getting ready to start college at Columbia, but has PTSD from the events of book two.
She’s also getting threatening messages (omg. AGAIN, Holly? Stop. It.)
Plus creepy phone calls (okay, I loved Scream as much as the next person) and strange drawings left outside her house.
This leads Pippa to an old case from ten years ago. Like the Andie Bell case in book one, the case is closed and a perpetrator is in prison.
But new Pippa doesn’t trust the justice system. Could this case be connected to the cases she’s investigated already? And is the real killer out there, stalking her?
Wow, does this book go dark.
I was of two minds: it horrified me, but as a reader who loves psychological development and and reads a lot of adult mystery series, I really appreciated what Holly Jackson was able to do here.
Bravo, Holly. I will withdraw all my petty complaints. I am impressed.
Movie News for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
In September 2022, author Holly Jackson and the BBC (that’s the British Broadcasting Company) announced that it was developing a series based on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
As I point out in my Series Spoiler Post for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson is British, the original books are set in the UK, and you might have read an Americanized version.
A six-part series, made by Moonage Pictures and written by Poppy Cogan, is scheduled to start filming sometime in 2023. It will air first on BBC Three, a newish channel targeting young British viewers (and, apparently, me.)
When will it make it to the screen and when will it make it to American screens? Watch this space and I will update it as I get more information.
Have you read this? Please tell me your thoughts in comments!