‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ by Holly Jackson – a great sequel

I loved ‘A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder’ for Pippa’s energy and discipline, for the twisty, surprising but credible plot, for the accurate contemporary setting and for the clever use of a school project format to tell the story. It was pretty much perfect, except for the last chapter. In my review at the time, I said:

My only criticism of the book is the final chapter. It’s one of those “Three Month’s Later” things. It’s well-written but, to me, it seemed too neat and too preachy. The rest of the book convinced me, even when it surprised me, but this seemed too simple.

Well, the sequel really makes up for that. It deals with the aftermath of Pippa’s revelations, including the ongoing rape trial. Pippa has grown up in the intervening months. She’s had time to count the cost to her and to others of her neat little investigation. She’s had time to think about the person she became when her search for the truth became an obsession and she’s starting to have regrets, to repudiate the person she’d been then, to promise not to be that person again.

Even so, she’s turned her project into a successful podcast, serving up the story of her investigation and keeping current with the rape trial. When the trial is done, she’ll put it all behind her, go back to being a Good Girl, focused on getting into Cambridge. Be herself again.

Of course, that doesn’t happen. None of us gets to be the person we were before we did the things that define who we are now. Pip knows this. She’s guilty about it. She’s determined to deny it. Until the brother of one of her friends goes missing and Pip has to push the Good Girl to one side and let her chase-the-truth-until-you’re-shaking-it-in-your-jaws self loose again.

I enjoyed ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ just as much as its predecessor but for different reasons. Holly Jackson wisely avoided writing another version of the first book but with a different puzzle to solve. She kept the same characters in the same location but she let them grow. Made them grow, actually. She replaced the school project format with a podcast format and the use of Social Media. I thought this worked well but it was never meant to be the main event. This story isn’t really about solving a Missing Person case. It’s about Pip learning that ‘solving’ isn’t what it seems, that the world is darker and less amenable to relentless logic than she thought and that she, not her Good Girl uniform but the real her, the one who hunts and avenges obsessively, is strong enough to take on that darkness as long as she’s willing to pay the price and as long as she knows she won’t always win.

I thought ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ was a remarkable book and I think it confirms Holly Jackson as a remarkable writer. I’ve already ordered the third book in the series, ‘As Good As Dead’. It comes out in August and I’m looking forward to making it a favourite summer read.

I recommend ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ to you, but don’t start there. Go back to ‘A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder’ so that you can see Pip change.

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