Wednesday, 2 October 2019

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

There is a lesser known novel by Dorothy L Sayers called The Documents in the Case. The greater part of the book is made up of transcripts of interviews and affidavits handed over to an investigator after a coroner has delivered a verdict of accidental death that one person simply doesn’t believe.

Holly Jackson’s debut crime novel for young adults fits in this same tradition. In this case, a young man, Sal, is presumed to have committed suicide after murdering his girlfriend. Five years later, Pippa is doing her A Levels and has to pick a topic for her Extended Project. She knew Sal and never believed the verdict that everyone else in the town accepted. Under cover of research for her Extended Project, she sets out to prove he was innocent.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a genuinely tense and exciting read, especially once the real murderer cottons on to what Pippa is up to and the jeopardy ramps up. But she also brings in the human side of the miscarriage of justice – through Ravi, the brother of the supposed murderer, who has not only lost his brother, but has become an outcast by association.

As with The Documents in the Case, the narrative here is interspersed with interview transcripts, diary entries, maps, records of texts and other things that Pippa is recording in her research log. Jackson sets out the clues that enable the reader to follow Pippa’s investigation – teasing us with a range of suspects and neither flagging up the solution too early, nor pulling the wool over our eyes by withholding information. And she manages to avoid the biggest potential pitfall with having a teenage detective – that of falling right off a cliff edge of plausibility.

Being only a few years out of high school herself, Jackson presents a high school world that is grounded in contemporary reality – albeit that of the leafy shires rather than deprived inner cities. The issues her teenagers face are those many of her audience will recognise from their own school days. If I have one criticism, it would be that Jackson’s attempt to provide diversity in her cast of characters lacks real depth.

A promising and enjoyable debut from a young author.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L Sayers, Snow Angel by JJ Marsh

Avoid If You Dislike:
School kid detectives

Perfect Accompaniment: Tea and home-made muffins

Genre: Crime Fiction, Young Adult

Buy a copy here

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