66 pages • 2 hours read
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All Good People Here is the debut novel by Ashley Flowers. Flowers, Indiana native and host of the well-known true crime podcast Crime Junkie, explores the secrets of small towns and the pursuit of a life purpose through Margot Davies, a reporter still haunted by the murder of her childhood friend, January Jacobs. The chapters alternate between 2019 and 1994 as Margot strives to solve the mystery of a recently kidnapped girl and uncover how the case relates to January’s murder. The book was published on August 16, 2022, and became both a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller. This study guide refers to the 2022 Bantam Books hardcover edition.
Content Warning: This text contains graphic descriptions of physical and sexual harm against children. This guide also quotes and obscures the use of the F-word.
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In 1994 Wakarusa, Indiana, Krissy Jacobs wakes to find a hateful message scrawled on her kitchen wall and her six-year-old daughter, January, missing. She panics about both what to do and how the residents of Wakarusa will react. In 2019, struggling reporter Margot Davies returns to her hometown of Wakarusa to care for her uncle Luke, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
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The town is abuzz with renewed interest in the 25-year-old cold case of the murder of January Jacobs after another young girl, Natalie Clark, goes missing from a local playground. Margot was January’s neighbor and childhood friend, and she has always felt that she is only alive because the murderer chose to target January instead of her. Margot’s survivor’s guilt and need for purpose drive her to investigate connections between January’s murder and Natalie’s disappearance, but her obsession with January’s case costs her her job at the newspaper.
Back in 1994, detectives find January’s body in a ditch close to the Jacobses’ home. Krissy struggles with mourning her daughter and concealing a secret: She believes her son, Jace, killed his twin, and Krissy tried to cover it up by spray-painting the message on the kitchen wall. Krissy thinks about the lost dreams of her youth: Instead of moving to New York City to pursue a dance career, she got pregnant the summer after graduating high school and married the wealthy Billy Jacobs to secure financial stability. Suspicion lands on Krissy when the family gives a disastrous TV interview, and the media response effectively seals the Jacobs family’s fate: The parents (especially Krissy) are negligent, and Jace is a creepy kid with something to hide.
In speaking with the people in town, as well as the former lead detective on January’s case, Margot detects bias in their perception of Krissy as a jealous and unfit mother. Margot interviews Billy and learns just how much the fallout from the interview destroyed the family: Jace left home at 17, and Krissy, who could never quite bring herself to parent Jace despite her love for him, fell into an uneasy routine of pills and wine and allegedly died by suicide (the narrative later reveals that Billy killed Krissy and staged a suicide). Margot remains determined to bring justice to January, even as someone keeps leaving her ominous messages and following her around town.
Margot learns that police have discovered Natalie Clark’s body, bludgeoned and with signs of sexual assault. She finds Jace hiding in Chicago under a new name. He tells her that neither he nor his mother killed January and relives the night he found January at the bottom of the basement stairs, holding a scrap of her baby blanket.
Although his sister’s death and the subsequent media circus ruined his life, Jace recalls happy memories of his sister, including her imaginary friend, Elephant Wallace. The name sparks recognition in Margot’s mind, and her suspicions fall on a new subject: Elliott Wallace, a man she interviewed once before as a suspect in another unsolved murder of a young girl. While she is unsuccessful in finding Wallace himself, she speaks with Wallace’s sister, Annabelle, who gives her the name of a storage facility where he has a unit in a town close to Wakarusa.
Meanwhile, Luke’s dementia symptoms worsen, and Margot struggles to balance her investigation with taking care of him. At home, Margot discovers an old photograph taken at one of January’s dance recitals that includes Wallace’s distinctive profile. With this discovery comes a much more disturbing one: Margot sees not only Wallace in the photograph, but her uncle, who claimed to have never known the Jacobses. Margot’s concerns deepen when she discovers a pile of January’s old dance programs in a secret compartment in his desk. Suddenly, Margot must contend with the possibility that her beloved uncle is a murderer.
Margot’s fears are short-lived when the woman who has been following her temporarily abducts her. Margot learns that she is Jodie, a woman with whom Krissy had a secret romantic relationship in the last years of her life. Krissy kept other secrets as well: She had begun conversing with Jace again through letters and learned that he did not kill January; the twins’ father is not Billy, but their old friend Dave, a nickname for Luke Davies. Jodie wants to help Margot solve the case, and she believes that Luke killed Krissy after she told him that he was the father of the twins. Suddenly, Luke’s attendance at January’s dance recitals makes sense to Margot. She explains that Luke must have already known that he was the father of the twins and therefore did not kill Krissy.
Margot convinces Jodie to drive to Elliott Wallace’s storage unit. They break in and uncover evidence of Wallace’s crimes: boxes containing personal items belonging to numerous little girls throughout the Midwest, including Natalie Clark and January Jacobs. Margot reports the storage unit and writes an exposé on Elliott Wallace, whom police arrest by morning. She sends the piece to her old editor, who calls to offer her job back. Margot requests to stay remote and work in Wakarusa to take care of Luke, to whom she no longer feels estranged after learning the truth.
In Margot’s closing chapter, she takes her piece on Elliott Wallace to Billy Jacobs so that he can have closure on what happened to January. Margot decides to not share the truth of the twins’ parentage, not wanting to cause further pain. As she is leaving, Margot notices a photograph of January and stops when she sees a scrap of fabric clasped in January’s hand. Suddenly, Margot remembers Jace telling her that he found January holding the scrap of fabric in her hand. Margot says this aloud, and Billy’s eyes go dark. Billy locks the door and confesses that he killed January accidently, and that he killed Krissy and staged her suicide because he found a letter she was going to send to Jace that implied she knew Billy killed January. Billy pulls Margot to the ground, saying that he cannot let her go because she knows his secret. As Billy pulls her toward the basement door, Margot decides she will not become another missing, murdered, forgotten woman.
In the Epilogue, Billy recalls the night he learned that he is not the father of the twins. Enraged, Billy returns home with plans to terrify Krissy, and he throws open the door of the basement stairs when he thinks he hears her walking up them. Billy is horrified when he sees that it is not Krissy, but January. He rushes to help her, but when she begins calling for her mother, he remembers that she is not his daughter and kills her. The novel ends with Billy placing a scrap of January’s baby blanket in her hand and preparing to lie to everyone for the rest of his life.