As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

The Blurb On The Back:

Dead girl walking.

Pip Fitz-Amobi is haunted by her last investigation.  But soon a new case finds her and this time it’s all about Pip.

She has a stalker, one who keeps asking: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?

Pip soon discovers a connection between her stalker and a local serial killer, but the police refuse to act.  As the dangerous game plays out it’s clear that if Pip doesn’t find the answers, she’s as good as dead …

You can order AS GOOD AS DEAD by Holly Jackson from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s September 2018, 4 months after GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD.

18-year-old Pip Fitz-Amobi is going up to Cambridge in a few weeks to read English literature, her podcast is more popular than ever and has now got sponsors, and she and Ravi Singh are closer than ever.  Pip should be excited, but the events of GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD have left her with PTSD after witnessing Charlie Green murder Stanley Forbes and she keeps reliving the events over and over.  Therapy hasn’t helped and she’s resorted to buying Xanax from Luke Eaton (who has split from Nat da Silva, who’s now dating Jamie Reynolds) in order to sleep at night.  

On top of this, Max Hastings is suing her for libel after she posted the audio clip of him confessing to date rape on her podcast.  He’s willing to settle the case but only if Pip publicly apologises for accusing him of rape and also tells the world that she doctored the audio clip.  Pip would rather see him in court but her solicitor is thinks she should settle.  Worse still is the fact that Max is back living in Little Kilton and has no issue with making sure that Pip can see him out and about, free as he likes.

On top of this ever since Stanley Forbes’s death, she’s been getting weird Tweets and emails from an anonymous account posting the same message: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?  Pip initially thought that it was just a troll, but when strange headless chalk markings turn up outside her house and headless pigeons are left outside her door, she realises that she’s got a stalker.  Ravi convinces her to take it to DI Hawkins, but Hawkins is dismissive meaning that once again, Pip will have to investigate this herself.

But this will be Pip’s most dangerous case yet because the more she looks into what her stalker is doing, the more she finds links to the Duct Tape Killer (DT Killer) who was active almost 10 years earlier in the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire region, close to Little Kilton.  The only problem is that the DT Killer was caught, confessed and is currently in prison so it couldn’t possibly be him … Could it?

The conclusion to Holly Jackson’s YA thriller trilogy is a dark and unsettling affair that works as a natural progression to the earlier two books (both in terms of plot and character) but there is a disturbing message here about how police and criminal justice system failures justify turning vigilante without any real consideration of proportionality or personal responsibility and I think the book loses something because of that.

The way this book sees Pip turn to vigilante justice both fits in with the overall theme of this trilogy (after all, this started with her wanting to do a true crime podcast and true crime podcasts are all about the police and criminal justice system not getting it right) and in terms of Pip’s character and story development (she has personally seen what happens when the police don’t believe her and won’t act and when the courts do not convict the guilty).  Indeed, AS GOOD AS DEAD ramps up Pip’s sense of the justice system failing because Max Hastings is suing her for telling the truth about him and his loathsome solicitor, Mr Epps, is making it a condition of the settlement that he’s offering that she not only apologise but she also tells the world she manipulated the tape.

One of my nitpicks with GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD was the way it didn’t seem to accurately reflect criminal rape trials.  Similarly, having done some civil mediation work I didn’t think the opening scenes of the book were a fair reflection either.  Again I get that some of this is for narrative effect but the fact that a mediator has two hostile parties in the same room is a big no no that really threw me out of the story (in my experience, parties have been in separate rooms for the opening stages of mediation with the mediator shuttling between them and are sometimes brought together when a deal is being thrashed out in the final stages).  

There was also a big missed opportunity in that Pip’s stepfather is a lawyer and even though Pip loves him and respects him at no point in these books does she have a conversation with him about how she thinks the system has let her down and worse, at no point in the books does he raise the topic with her.  This bothered me because a lot of the final third of this book is Pip justifying what she does on the basis that the system doesn’t work (which I agree with) but there is no counterpoint to that, notably why you shouldn’t work to undermine it and why fitting someone up for a crime just because they got away with another crime is not a good thing.  There is also the fact that Pip did have the opportunity to put her faith in the system one more time and given the circumstances, there was a strong chance it would have worked, but this gets glossed over and it’s disturbing because she nods at that without ever really working through what may have happened and the reader is invited to go along with it and accept that she did the right thing.

Just to be clear, it’s not that I disapproved of the morality at play here.  I don’t need my YA fiction to be whiter than white and it bears repeating that the systems do fail and that does have life changing consequences for the wrong people.  The issue I have is that there is genuinely not enough doubt over whether Pip has done the right thing – indeed, the way her friends all support her without question suggests you are meant to think she was correct – but I think what she did was actually quite horrifying and I would have liked just one character to call her on that.  

Jackson does a convincing job of taking the reader along with Pip as she confronts what’s happening to her and then makes her fateful decisions so you always understand her point of view.  Jackson is particularly convincing with Pip’s PTSD and I really enjoyed the call backs to the earlier books, e.g. the fact that Pip is now buying Xanax from Luke Eaton, who she suspected in Jamie’s disappearance in the previous book and the way she uses Andie Bell’s disappearance as the thread holding everything together (although saying that, I would have liked some kind of scene between Pip and Becca given everything that happens here).

Pacing works pretty well although I think that the final half of the book gets a little bogged down at parts with the details of Pip’s plan.  That said, there are plenty of twists and turns and I particularly liked the unexpected discovery in the final quarter, which threatens to derail everything but is foreshadowed early on.  I would have liked a bit more foreshadowing of the DT Killer in the earlier books – even if it was just Billy Karras’s mother reaching out in GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD. 

There is a bit more meat to Pip and Ravi’s relationship here although I do find him a bit too perfect and would have liked a bit more fire to him (although to be fair, he is performing a traditional “girlfriend sidekick” role here).  The flip side is that because so much of this book is about Pip’s isolation, her friends generally take a back seat – notably Cara who together with her sister Naomi has also been through a lot in this trilogy but it kinda falls by the wayside.

My gripes aside, I do think this works well as a conclusion to the trilogy and I have to say that I think this is one of the best thriller trilogies I’ve read in a long time (let alone one of the best YA trilogies I’ve come across) because there is an overall arc going on here that has a genuine beginning, middle and end but where each novel can also also stand alone.  Jackson is one of the most exciting YA writers working at the moment and I genuinely look forward to reading what she does next.

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