The Good Girl's Guide to Murder Trilogy Ends with a Bang...Just Not a Good One
This review for As Good as Dead contains MAJOR SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
GENRE: YA Mystery (sequel)
LENGTH: 455 pages
The final installment of the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series sees Pip about to go off to college. Before she can, though, she's being stalked by a serial killer and she must find them before they make her their sixth victim.
Compared to the first two novels in the trilogy this novel's cast is significantly smaller. Most characters have little more than cameos with the focus being primarily on Pip and Ravi. Since this was a farewell to the series I wish we'd gotten to see more of the rest of the cast. We learn what a good number of them are up to but we don't get to see it so much as being told by Pip. The actual scenes they do have are all in service to Pip as well.
Now, I normally love morally grey characters and I would definitely consider Pip this. Throughout the series much has she wants to be a "good girl" we see hints of an inner darkness. Her arc has been a gradual descent into that darkness and anger within her. This was compelling up until it was disturbing (see the next section).
A large part of the narrative is her struggles with trauma and her PTSD. She has a lot of repetitive thoughts about blood on her hands and gun shots and is easily triggered by certain sounds and sensations. It may not be easy to read about a young woman's trauma, but it's unrealistic to pretend that anyone would survive what she has and come out unscathed. That being said, any positive representation here is kind of spoiled rotten by Pip's actions in this novel.
The identity of the serial killer stalking Pip was pretty obvious. It's Jason Bell who, from the first novel, has been noted as an abusive husband and father and overall terrible human being. If Jackson wanted the reveal to be shocking/surprising she shouldn't have picked a character so well established to be of an evil nature and most definitely should have widened her cast. Such a tiny cast meant that there weren't a lot of characters to suspect. I also think it would have been interesting to have had Pip being stalked by a copycat rather than the actual killer and thought it strange she never truly considered this possibility.
The novel is told from Pip's third person perspective. I usually think that third person can somewhat distance you from a character but I don't think that was the case here at all. The writing makes it feel like we are inside of Pip's head. There are mixed media elements incorporated which I always love and look forward to. Jackson does them well by having them be part of Pip's research and evidence. There is a steep drop off in mixed media in the second half of the novel which, given the course Jackson chose, wasn't unexpected but was still disappointing.
This novel is really two separate stories. The first half is about Pip having a stalker and the second half is about the aftermath of Pip murdering said stalker (A.K.A. Jason Bell). Throughout the second half Pip and her boyfriend are trying to cover up her murder and frame Max Hasting (a known rapist who got away with his horrendous crimes).
I liked the first half and found it compelling. I longed for Jackson to have Pip trying to uncover the identity of her stalker be the entire premise of the novel. While Jason and Max are both evil people that doesn't defend Pip's actions which were arguably just as immoral. It transformed her into a character I could no longer root for and was instead actively rooting against. It was arduous to make it through the second half has I was emotionally checked out.
Jackson could have easily had Pip kill in self-defense, panic, and then try to cover it up. Instead she made the choice to have Pip escape from Jason just to come back and brutally murder him in cold blood. Pip's struggles with her own morality in the book, but that seems to fly out the window after she kills a man. Her entire focus is on her own freedom and safety.
Finally, the ending of this book made no sense. Pip fears that the town sheriff suspects her still. In order to protect her loved ones she cuts off all contact with them when she goes to college, even breaking up with Ravi. If she genuinely felt she was being closely watched for suspicious behavior wouldn't her abruptly isolating herself from everyone be considered just that?
I suspect that Jackson made the decision to have Pip get kidnapped and kill a man because she wanted the finale to be a bigger and more dramatic than the first two. She wanted to go out with a bang and it backfired. She took a character who, in the first two novels had done good, and turned her wholly bad. There is the saying that two wrongs don't make a right and apparently no one taught Pip or Ms. Jackson that. This series now reads like it's a villain origin story.
The second book in this series is on my favorites of the year list and I wanted so badly to love this book just as much. I fully expected it to be a 4-5 star read. I full anticipated wholeheartedly recommending this series to young readers but I can't do that now. If Jackson wanted to get this dark she should have written this for adults.
I went into this book sad it was the end but looking forward to consuming whatever Jackson may write next. Now, I'm not so sure I'll read more of her books. I haven't ruled it out, but I'm very conflicted.
FINAL RATING: 2⭐️