A review by kingrosereads
As Good As Dead, by Holly Jackson

dark emotional mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

The YA mystery thriller series has come to an end. 

An interesting conclusion to the AGGGTM trilogy. I have to say it had its ups and downs. It was my least favorite of the three books but it was still good and entertaining. 

While it still is on the “unbelievable, this is definitely fiction” side of things, it does deal with a lot of serious, really dark issues of mental illness, PTSD, and self-medicating. 

Pip is reeling from witnessing Stanley’s murder from the previous books. She’s experiencing severe PTSD and can’t sleep. Her anxiety is on a whole other level. When he doctor stops prescribing her Xanax so she can learn to cope without them, she begins buying them off of Luke. The first third of the book does lean into this darkness Pip is stuck in and it’s also when she begins to notice strange things around the house. She’s noticed dead pigeons and strange chalk drawings in front of her house. Then she gets another creepy message from what she believed was a troll at first, but now it seems like this troll is connected to the dead birds and drawings, which means she has a stalker. 

She attempts to bring this to the attention of the police but classic Detective Hawkins let’s us down again. So Pip takes it into her own hands to investigate with Ravi by her side. And god I love Ravi so much. Too good for this world that kid. On a whim she finds a very flimsy connection to a case 6 years prior. It’s a serial killer case about the DT Killer, who everyone believes is behind bars now. But in a offhand comment made by one of victim’s family members, Pip made a connection to the birds and drawings. Then the prank calls started. Just like the victim’s sister mentioned. 

As Pip looks into the DT case, she sees how the police coerced a false confession out of a man, Billy, who is now imprisoned for these murders. She then starts drawing connections between the DT killings and Andie Bell (the murder that started it all). Andie reached out to one of the victim’s sisters using a secret email, one that Pip gained access to and saw that Andie knew who the DT Killer was and that she was doing everything she could to get her and her sister, Becca, out of Fairview. This sheds a new light on Andie (though I thought it was fine having a victim not be perfect or likable but I digress). Pip recognizes that Billy and Daniel de Silva worked for Jason Bell’s company. Pip begins to believe that Daniel is the real DT Killer. And it’s clear, the DT Killer is the one stalking her. 

She keeps everything from her family and friends, only Ravi knows everything that’s going on. She’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and at any moment it seems like she’ll crack under the pressure. 

And this is when the spoilers come in, so read the book first and come back. 

Pip is abducted by DT and it’s revealed that Jason is the killer (just as I predicted back when his company was first mentioned). He takes her to a warehouse, does his whole “villain revealing his plans and past crimes” thing, and he duct tapes her arms, feet, and wraps her head with tape. Then he leaves her there for some good ol’ psychological torture. I’ll admit I was freaking out from the moment she called his number and until she was trapped in this warehouse. Even with 200 pages left in the book, I just assumed she’d be get free and deal with Max Hastings. And I wasn’t wrong. After crying through Pip being utterly terrified, she frees herself, arms herself with a hammer, and escapes. Then she hears Jason return and in a split decision she doubles back. She keeps thinking how the police won’t believe her, Jason is a prominent member of society, a pillar of the community if you will, and they believe the DT Killer is in prison. They’ve never believed Pip before so why would they now? And Pip kills Jason with the hammer. It’s oddly satisfying. 

Then she calls Ravi (which the entire time I’m like okay your DNA is all in the warehouse, duct tape, and the trunk of his car even if they don’t believe he’s DT the evidence that he kidnapped you is pretty damning) and together they come up with a plan to erase Pip’s existence from the crime scene. And at this point I’m like “Pip, what are you doing? The cops need a killer regardless. What are you gonna do? Frame Max? Lol.” And a few pages later, Pip chooses Max to frame for the murder. 

The rest of the book is pretty much Pip and Ravi manipulating the crime scene to make it appear that Jason died much later, gathering evidence to frame Max (with a vindicating moment where Max gets roofied), and then establishing ironclad alibis. And yes, she recruited her friends to help without telling them anything they didn’t need to know. Then it’s just stress the rest of the book. To be honest, the whole thing was stressful. Waiting with Pip to hear news of the murder and the police investigating Max. There was an “oh shit” moment when it seemed like Pip was about to get caught, but it worked out. Pip decided to cut off her friends, family, and Ravi to protect them until Max if found guilty, on the chance he’s freed again and police continue their investigation that will point to Pip. With Jason’s DNA and fingerprints, as well as trophies he took from his victims, Billy was exonerated, and now people know Jason was the DT Killer. 

Pip had her moments, where the decisions she was making seemed wrong and impulsive to the point she second guesses whether there was a better way. Either she’s maturing or learning from her past mistakes or both. Regardless, Pip is only 18, still a kid, and making bad decisions comes with the territory. It makes sense for both her and Ravi to distrust the system and take matters into their own hands. 

It’s all quite dramatic and unrealistic in a lot of ways. I know these books are inspired by actually crimes, but it does seem so out there to have the DT Killer be the catalyst for Andie’s death, Sal’s murder, Max raping Becca, Howie going to jail, Stanley being outed and murdered, just to come full circle and end with the DT Killer being murdered himself. A lot of shit happens to Pip, and yeah she inserts herself into these investigations, and at least with this one, it came to her, but can this much coincidental, bad shit happen to one person? Also, very dumb on Jason’s part though. After being careful for years, he chooses a victim he knows, has motive to kill, and is close to home? I mean he could’ve just been spiraling which is what it seemed like when he was talking to Pip, but come on man. 

It was the most predictable of the three books, which is unfortunate because I like to be surprised like I was in the first two books, but maybe I just remember too much from the other two books to be taken by surprise? And while I like that we don’t know what happens to Pip and her mental health, her and Ravi, Becca, or Charlie Green, I’m still a little peeved I don’t have the answers. I’m spoiled I guess. 

I think the book did well showing what it’s like to be a woman trying to report stalking or sexual assault, especially when the assailant is a rich white man. It gives a little highlight on how privileged white men have an advantage over everyone when it comes to the criminal justice system. Whereas of Jason or Max were POC, it’s likely the white victims would’ve been believed almost immediately. 

And just the conversation of false confessions was really important. Reading that transcript was just so hard cause I’ve heard it so many times in real cases where a false confession was coerced out of poor people, minorities, and those with mental/intellectual disabilities. Honestly, as someone that studied criminology in undergrad, I could see this book getting a lot of young people interested in criminal justice reform, maybe inspire some to pursue a career in changing it. 

I also think it did a good job explaining how trauma can affect even the strongest of people. However, I did not like that Pip was yet another female character that is so anti-therapy after an extreme trauma. I just don’t think, especially as a YA, that this trope should continue. 

While all the books stand on their own, you definitely can’t read them out of order, and really there are bread crumbs in each one to lead to the next book that I think it’d hard not to be curious. If YA mysteries are your thing, give this series a read. I wish I had it when I was in high school to read! 

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