The Blurb On The Back:
Someone is missing. Nobody’s talking. But this time EVERYONE is listening …
Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective any more. Her true crime podcast about the murder case she solved last year has gone viral. Yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.
But she will have to go back on her word when someone close to her goes missing and the police can’t do anything about it. If they won’t investigate, then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way. But will she find the answers before time runs out?
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s March 2018, almost 5 months after the events of A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.
17-year-old Pip Fitz-Amobi has released the podcast of her investigation into the disappearance of Andie Bell to popular and critical acclaim. She and her boyfriend, Ravi Singh, are now covering the rape trial brought against Max Hastings but once that’s done and Hastings is put in jail where he belongs, she’s decided that she doesn’t want to do any more podcasting. She has a bright future ahead of her – a place at Cambridge University to study English Literate and thereafter, who knows? She doesn’t want a return to the danger that investigating Andie’s disappearance put her in, and she certainly doesn’t want to be put in a situation where her life is at risk again. Besides, the repercussions of what she uncovered continue to ripple through the village of Little Kilton, with her best friend Cara struggling to deal with the fallout of Pip’s discovery that her dad was a murderer and a kidnapper and Pip is still coming to terms with the guilt she feels for revealing that.
In late April the village holds a memorial for Andie and Sal. Everyone turns up, even the new neighbours – Charlie and Flora Green – who moved into Zach Chen’s house down the same road where Pip and her family live when his parents decided that they could no longer stay in Little Kilton after everything that had happened. But the next day Pip’s friend, Connor, comes to her asking for help. His older brother Jamie hasn’t been since the memorial and isn’t answering his phone. Connor and his mum are convinced that something has happened to him, but the police are refusing to investigate partly because it’s been less than 24 hours but mainly because at the age of 24, Jamie is considered an adult and he has form for disappearing from the family home.
Pip’s reluctant to take the case but even though Connor’s dad is convinced Jamie is just messing them around, Connor and his mum are desperate. Feeling that she has no choice, Pip agrees to help but warns them that they might not like what she uncovers about Jamie or what he was up to. As she starts to go through Jamie’s movements on the night of the memorial, she digs up more secrets that some in Little Kilton would prefer to keep hidden, together with some unpleasant ties to the Andie Bell case …
Holly Jackson’s YA thriller sequel accomplishes that rare feat of being an even better read. Jackson sensitively deals with the fall out from the first novel (for Pip and her friends and family) and then creates a new mystery that significantly overlaps with the first. I have some nitpicks (mainly around the rape trial but also some about Cara) but it is a genuinely gripping read and I am looking forward to the concluding book in this trilogy.
I’m going to start with my favourite element of this book, which is that Pip is still coming to terms with what happened to her in A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER. I liked the way she’s shaken by what happened to her dog and by Becca’s attempt to kill her via an overdose and I believed in how that makes her frightened to take on any more investigations. I also believed in her mother and father’s way of dealing with it – how they’re trying not to push her but are still obviously very concerned about what happened. At the same time, Jackson does an excellent job of showing how despite all this, there’s still something in Pip that *needs* to investigate. It’s a pull that’s got into her blood and she’s sure that if she can keep uncovering the truth, then everything will be okay.
And this brings me to the Max Hastings trial, which is where I have some nitpicks. I’m going to start with the positives though – the way Jackson incorporates this into the book both as a narrative device (it’s a neat follow on from the original podcast so of course Pip would cover it) and a way of explaining what happens when Pip realises that justice is not always so clear cut. The way it drives Pip into certain actions in the final quarter of the book make absolute sense in the context of what happens during the trial and feels like a natural progression of her character.
While I understand why Jackson wanted to feature the Hastings trial in the sequel, I had some nitpicks. For starters, he’s brought to trial 5 months after the investigation, which is ridiculously quick (for reference, it can take up to 3 years for a rape trial to happen in England). Then there is mention in the court coverage about how Hastings’ defence lawyer is a solicitor called Christopher Epps, which surprised me because given how rich Hastings’s family is, you’d have thought they’d have gone for a barrister (usually a QC). It is unusual for a solicitor to stand up in court in such a high profile case, which did make me raise my eyebrows. But more than this is the way Jackson decides that Epps will cross-examine victim Natalie de Silva on what she was wearing the night she was raped and whether she was dressed promiscuously. Although it is not common for defence lawyers to seek to raise this, the judge is supposed to intervene if it is not relevant to the case and I would have preferred if this had been touched upon (even if it is only to say that the judge should have intervened). Similarly, Nat de Silva’s past criminal conviction for assault gets used to suggest she’s untrustworthy as a witness and again, that should only be the case where the conviction goes to the accusation and I would have liked to see that mentioned. By contrast, I was also unconvinced by the exclusion of Pip’s recording of Max’s confession as evidence in the trial – again, it’s not that it can’t happen, but the fact that it was a secret recording does not by itself preclude its admission into evidence.
A separate nitpick I had was the fall out of A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER for Cara. I liked what was there – her problems with sleeping, the fact that her grandparents have moved in to care for her and her sister Naomi and are planning to sell the house and move once Cara’s exams are over. However the reaction of other people to Cara given what her father did was not wholly convincing to me. I’d been expecting more speculation and gossip about whether she and Naomi knew what had happened and the impact of that on her reputation, but it’s all just brushed under the carpet, which didn’t seem wholly realistic. The reason it bugged me was partly because of what happens at the very end of the book when one character’s secret has been outed and a literal mob gathers in response and partly because of the on-line suspicion that’s immediately generated around Jamie’s father and whether he had a role in his disappearance as both threw up for me that I’d been expecting more of that kind of thing for Cara’s family.
These nitpicks aside, I want to stress that I did find this a gripping read. The way Pip delves into Jamie’s life is well done, uncovering a young man who feels adrift within the world and has a troubled relationship with a father who believes in the ‘tough love’ approach. I also liked the fact that you couldn’t really guess where the investigation was going to lead – Jackson packs the plot with a lot of twists and turns, some of which are sign posted, others are not (and yet the clues are there). It genuinely keeps you on your toes and the way Jackson brings in different narrative devices, like maps, transcripts of Pip’s interviews and other evidence, are very well done and help build the overall mysterious feel of the book.
There’s also a mounting sense of tension in the book, both because of Pip’s emotions as she has to deal with what’s happening and also because of the stakes raised by Jamie’s disappearance. The way Jackson builds Pip’s emotional stake with the investigation to the conclusion point is on the whole well done (although I have to say that I would have liked the Child Brunswick element to have been brought in slightly earlier than it is) and it’s operating on a number of levels so that everything that happens feels like a natural progression from the previous events and it’s done without sacrificing pace or plot. I particularly enjoyed the overlaps with the Andie Bell investigation, which explores new areas (and forces Pip to deal with Nat de Silva’s anger towards her) but doesn’t rehash the old plot.
All in all (and nitpicks aside), this is a really well done book that really kept me turning the pages. The bombshell ending and what it means for Pip going forward guarantees that I will check out the end of this YA trilogy.