Saturday, July 27, 2019

Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Published: January 16, 2018

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult

Hardcover Pages: 416

Synopsis: Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Thoughts: I think I must like mysteries, you guys. I feel like most of my reviews lately of any book involving a mystery have been mostly positive. Okay, one comes to mind that wasn't as much, but still, on the whole, yes. You're probably getting where this is going - this book is another mystery, and yes, I enjoyed it too.

I came into this book expecting it to be a one-off, but it turns out that no, it's a series. D'oh. But, the good thing is that while this book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, the next one has already been published, so hey, if I want to, I can pick it right back up.

But I'm not talking about what I actually like about this book, am I? What I found interesting is that it goes back and forth between two time periods. At first I thought this was going to be a period book and I was like oh dang I didn't realize, not sure if I'm up for a period mystery right now, but it turns out that it jumps between the 1930s and the present day, both at Ellingham Academy. And if you don't like a book that features a private school tucked away in the mountains where children are away from their parents, I don't know what's wrong.

I also really enjoyed the main character of Stevie. She's strong yet vulnerable, with a sense of conviction and curiosity that sometimes gets the best of her. The mysteries (yes, two) both take interesting twists and turns, and I will just say upfront if you are looking for everything to be solved at the end of a mystery novel, that does not happen here. I expect it's meant to happen by the end of the third book, but we'll see.

The long and the short of it is, I'm here for the series, and am definitely looking forward to the next one. The question is - do I read it next straight away, or pause and let some anticipation build? Considering I have a whole host of other books in my queue, dang, I guess I should pause. A little.

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon

What I'm Reading Next: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (edit: did not finish)


  1. This sounds really interesting. I'm adding it to my list, although I may wait until the final book is published before I get started. I'm a lot less willing to start unfinished series these days - I call it my George R.R. Martin rule (sigh). Fortunately, it looks like the third book is scheduled for an early 2020 release date, so that isn't too long to wait. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Yeah, I wonder if I would have started it had I known it was a series! But, I'm glad I did, and also glad the next book is already published, and the next one after that close behind!