- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins - US (22 January 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062338056
- ISBN-13: 978-0062338051
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.4 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 399 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Truly Devious: A Mystery Hardcover – 22 Jan 2018
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"Maureen Johnson has a totally original mind, a passionate set of moral convictions, an extraordinary sense of bravery and ridiculousness, and she writes pretty sentences. Read whatever she writes."--E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud
"The story raises more questions than answers, leaving readers hoping Johnson has another entry up her clever sleeves. A classic mystery that would make Dame Agatha proud."--Kirkus Reviews
"Stevie Bell is a dyed-in-the-wool true-crime buff...a smart, relatable, self-aware protagonist. Fans of puzzles, boarding school stories, and true crime will tear through this book and love every minute."--School Library Journal
"Johnson deftly twists two mysteries together--Stevie's investigation is interspersed with case files and recollections from the Ellington kidnapping--and the result is a suspenseful, attention-grabbing mystery with no clear solution. The versatile Johnson is no stranger to suspense, and this twisty thriller will leave plenty of readers anxious for more."--Booklist
"Jumping between past and present, Johnson's novel is deliciously atmospheric, with a sprawling cast of complex suspects/potential victims, surprising twists, and a dash of romance. As in her Shades of London books, Johnson remains a master at combining jittery tension with sharp, laugh-out-loud observations."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Told in alternating chapters, Johnson's finely tuned plot effectively employs classical mystery tropes while maintaining a thoroughly modern sensibility. Stevie's quirky, ragtag bunch of new friends crosses sexuality and class lines, providing teen readers with a wealth of characters to connect with."--Horn Book Magazine
"Johnson quickly sets the game afoot, skillfully introducing a Clue-like set of characters, laying out various motives, and hinting at long held secrets. There's a delicious slow-burn element to the locked-room mystery in Stevie's present, while the chapters on the kidnappings read like a true crime novel."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The Agatha Christie-like ecosystem pairs with lacerating contemporary wit, and alternating past and present scenes makes for a multilayered, modern detective story."--New York Times Book Review
"Be still, my Agatha-Christie-loving beating heart."--Bustle
From the Back Cover
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont. 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.”
In 1936, shortly after the school opened, Ellingham’s wife and daughter, Iris and Alice, 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 crimes of American history. Something like that could never happen again, of course. . . .
Years later, 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.
Truly Devious is the first novel in a murder- mystery trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.
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3 customer reviews
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I love that this series moves slowly, there’s no rush to reveal all from the beginning. Information unfolds and clues appear, slowly and frustratingly - as they might in real life. The author plays fair, in the best Agatha Christie fashion, dropping clues for readers to follow if they can.
As the past and the present intertwine, Stevie, David, Janelle and Nate navigate the start of adulthood with all its complications.
I found the very woke “they” pronoun for Vi irritating, but it’s a minor irritation.
This is the best kind of YA writing, the sort which treats its readers with respect.
I’m looking forward to the third book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I always forget how much I love mysteries! At first this book reminded me of a Westing Game with a Winchester Mansion twist.
The plot alternates between the Ellingham family kidnappings in the 1930s and the present day Stevie Bell who attends Ellingham Academy intent on solving the mystery of the kidnappings.
The book is full of riddles and puzzles, twists and turns. I found myself reading huge chunks at a time. There was some social commentary embedded within (mostly modern but one part was a clear JFK/LHO nod), but now I wonder if even some of that will be turned on its head. Despite murder and mischief, there was humor sprinkled throughout. The main thing I didn't like is that when I bought it I did not know it was part of a series (I knew right before starting) and that it ended on a literal "to be continued..." I don't have the best memory always and tend to mix up or forget things between books.
If you like The Westing Game, Chasing Vermeer, or things like Winchester House you should like this one.
Now...to get on with this book review. I am a sucker for YA mysteries, and I do love Johnson's writing style, so obviously I immediately purchased this book. The mystery in this one is quite heartbreaking, involving a 3 year old child, which tugs at my heartstrings. This is a very intricately written book, with so many complex things happening and being built simultaneously. Moving between past and present, you are left in awe at how Johnson maneuvered all the events and put them together in a way that isn't too complicated for the readers to grasp, but still leaves you scratching your head.
The book starts with a prologue, where a student at Ellingham Academy is murdered. That scene is written so well that it made me think of The Lovely Bones and that suffocating scene where Susie gets brutally murdered. We then find out that the school's founder's wife and 3 year old daughter are also missing.
In present day, Stevie Bell enrolls into Ellingham Academy with one goal in mind - to solve the murder mystery that took place back in 1936. Now, I have to admit, I was rolling my eyes at this. A teenager is going to solve a mystery that went unsolved for almost a century. Really? Except, once I got into it and got to know the characters and got to know Stevie better, I didn't even care anymore. I suspended reality and decided to go with the flow, and was completely behind her, supporting her and rooting for her.
The book continues to alternate between past and present as the events of the past are slowly revealed and how the crime was never really solved and the child's body was never found, and how Stevie tries to put it all together in present time, while strange things start to happen mirroring the events of the past.
In the midst of all that, we get to know Stevie's flat mates, friends, family, her likes and dislikes, her insecurities, her love interest (of course) and all the usual high school drama. David is definitely an intriguing character, and I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming, although I should have probably expected it, but I didn't.
This whole book played out like a big set up for what's going to happen in book 2. It introduces you to the murder in the past, then sets you up with a new murder done in the same fashion as the one from the past with a poem by "Truly Devious" him/herself, then leaves you with, not one, but TWO killer cliffhangers so you basically have to bang your head against the wall in frustration as you wait until next year for the second installment.
I hope that this is one series Maureen Johnson will see through to the end.
Stevie Bell has been accepted at the Ellingham Academy in rural Vermont. The school was founded by a tycoon in the 1930s to provide a free education to students from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a wide variety of interests. Her housemates include and inventor, a novelist, an eccentric artist, an actor, and a character steeped in mystery. Stevie wants to solve mysteries and the one most on her mind is the kidnapping and disappearance of the school founder's wife and daughter in 1936. While the wife's body was found, the child's was not.
Stevie has read all the books about the mystery. She has gathered thousands of pages of research including court transcripts, FBI interviews, and newspaper clippings. She is glad to be at the school and away from the parents who don't understand her and who support a political candidate she can't stand.
The curriculum caters to her interests and she is kept busy with schoolwork and the day to day activities of a boarding school. Stevie is worried about the usual things: fitting in and making friends. Stevie also suffers from anxiety and takes medication to combat panic attacks. These things all fit in around her research.
When Hayes, the actor, comes to her and asks for her help recreating the kidnapping, she pulls in Nate to do the writing while she provides the technical details. They gather together with other friends to produce a video. But then Hayes dies in one of the tunnels that riddle the school. Was it a tragic accident? Or is there a new murderer stalking Ellingham Academy?
I loved the writing in this book. The story was descriptive, lyrical, and often sort of creepy. Stevie is a great character who sometimes gets so focused on crime solving that she neglects the people in her life. David was a fascinating character who provides quite a puzzle to Stevie even as they begin a tentative romance.
Fans of mysteries, boarding schools, and romance will all enjoy this story and be eager to find out more when books two and three are available.