- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins - US (29 January 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062338080
- ISBN-13: 978-0062338082
- Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 13.7 x 21.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Vanishing Stair Hardcover – 29 Jan 2019
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"Stevie Bell is a dyed-in-the-wool true-crime buff. There is a lot to love here. Fans of puzzles, boarding school stories, and true crime will tear through this book and love every minute."--School Library Journal
"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
Praise for TRULY DEVIOUS: "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. Johnson remains a master at combining jittery tension with sharp, laugh-out-loud observations."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"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
"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
"In this second installment of her marvelous Truly Devious series, Maureen Johnson offers thrilling suspense, sly wit, a memorable cast of characters and more pieces of her deliciously intricate puzzle."--Buffalo News
"Take it from the world's most impatient reader: If the Truly Devious series is basically one long mystery book, The Vanishing Stair is a middle part so enjoyable you won't even want to skip to the end."--Entertainment Weekly
"Johnson gives and she takes away: a few major mysteries are satisfying solved, but other long-standing riddles remain tantalizingly indecipherable, and several new ones come into play . . . Readers, hang tight: there's one more round to come, and if the signs are right, it'll be to die for."--Booklist
"Waiting for the next installment of Maureen Johnson's Agatha Christie-Sherlock Holmes-classic mystery homage series was torture, but The Vanishing Stair is oh so worth it."--Bustle
From the Back Cover
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR SOMEONE WHO’S NEVER REALLY THERE?
The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie Bell for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy. But then her classmate Hayes Major was murdered, and though she identified his killer, her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they say.
Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be with her friends, and solve the case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, the guy she’s conflicted about at all times, and the guy who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son. But larger issues are at play. Was Hayes’s death really solved? Where did his murderer hide away to? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair?
The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present. The path to the truth has more twists and turns than Stevie can imagine, and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel in the Truly Devious series, someone will pay for the truth with their life.
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I should have been done after book one (which, of course, also ended on a cliffhanger), but more-so because of the authoress' clearly biased politics. Now, some may find this to be nit-picking on my part, and maybe a bit overblown, but I need to say it:
It takes a really bitter person to fashion a series around a kidnapping/murder investigation, and make the main villain totally unconnected to that a (although never explicitly confirmed, but glaringly obvious) Republican Senator. A man who is cold, so far as of now unrelated to the central mysteries, and evil for the sake of being the story’s antagonist. We’re never told why he’s a bad guy in any direct way; He’s obviously not a very good father, shady, and has a hidden M.O., but Stevie frequently refers to him as “the devil” and “racist, fascist scum.” This is a person who Stevie blatantly wishes, while on a private plane with the man, was dead— she wonders at the plane crashing, and if the world would be better off if he perished. Like... what the??? Even if she were to die as well, she says it would be for the greater good. That is a RADICALIZED, HATEFUL mentality. Everyone in the book has such strong, negative reactions to this Senator. And don’t try and tell me that Edward King is never mentioned being a Republican. It does not take a genius to put it together, and this is just another case of a bitter author using her platform to demonize the Republican Party. We’re not all racist, bigoted, xenophobic sheep. What I get from this is that anyone who associates with Republicans is shunned and ostracized. It’s shameful. The story could’ve been so much better without this plot line. It was unnecessary to what I wanted to read based on the initial blurb from book one.
That rant over, I can get back to the book as a whole— but whole, it really isn’t. Splitting up a YA mystery into three books is a strrrretcccchh. And it feels that way. There is so much expository stuff that could have been chopped away, and turned this trilogy into a fairly longer standalone. It would have worked better that way. Even a duology would’ve been fine! No more frustrating cliffhangers, and a lot less (if I’m being honest) boring filler.
Some random side notes:
•A good mystery typically lays most of their cards on the table and begs you to “SOLVE ME (if you can)”. Here, we’re given some clues to start, and then thrown other tidbits of clues at the very end we could never have picked up on. Ever. And again and again, we’re fed more, but it doesn’t feel fun. I want to know the broad strokes, and THEN the smaller details. And we can’t do anything about any of it, even if we knew the answers to some, until Stevie gets it in her head.
•David and Stevie are toxic together. I don’t understand the pairing AT ALL!
•Again, I found this book too “young” for me. It lacked the hardcore sleuthing I craved, and was pretty “Nancy Drew for the modern age”, but with more hipsters.
•I wanted more Nate, Janelle, and Mudge— the only sensible and interesting characters.
•I have to give credit for the way Stevie’s anxiety is handled. Props for accurate depictions of panic attacks. Mental illness is no joke... but there is something seriously problematic with David’s behavior, and no one acting on getting him help is sad.
I’m done with this.
The Vanishing Stair was one of my most anticipated sequels for 2019 after falling absolutely in love with Truly Devious last fall. I was really excited to see what happened after that incredibly rude cliffhanger, and hoped to get more answers in this installment. 🕵️ I am pleased to say that we got some much-needed answers (& some new questions!), as well as more actual investigating, but overall this one fell into the middle book syndrome for me. It was an enjoyable and I will finish the series, but if I am being honest I could have done without the first 40% of this book.
The book opens up with Stevie back home in Pittsburgh, her parents having removed her from Ellingham Academy after news got out about what happened - and Stevie's involvement - in the end of the previous book. She's trying to readjust to life back home while still obsessing over the Truly Devious case, but we as readers feel the same disconnect she does once she leaves the Academy. Lucky for everyone she gets back into Ellingham, but not without strings. And the longer she keeps that truth hidden, the worse it is going to be for her.
"Murderers aren't a type. They're anyone."
I got 40% into the book before any real investigating started to take place, which was a lot more of a disappointing pace than in the first book. I feel like there was a lot of repetition and reiteration in the narrative of The Vanishing Stair, and in my opinion there is little of value that was added in the first half of the book to where the mysteries uncovered here could have been part of book 1 and it may have been stronger for it.
I was rather disappointed with the "secrets for getting back into Ellingham and the subsequent fallout" plotline. The conflict made little sense to me and I was left wondering why she even kept it a secret to begin with. (For conflict, that's why.)
I will say that this series has some amazing anxiety representation in it, and I really appreciate how Stevie's anxiety is almost a character itself in this book. As a person who suffers from chronic and crippling anxiety, it means a lot to me to see it depicted with care on the page and have it normalized.
Despite my not really enjoying myself for almost half of the book, once the investigation and clues begin to fall into place I was absolutely hooked! I really enjoyed how everything was unraveled slowly, and you can tell than Johnson has plotted the main points of the overall mystery with care. I'll admit that I guessed the big twist, but that isn't uncommon for me to do so it never really lessens my reading experience. I felt like the ending made sense and I am excited to see how things wrap up!
Overall, while this wasn't a perfect read for me it was definitely an enjoyable addition to the Truly Devious trilogy! You'll learn the solution to Ellingham's final riddle in this one, but there's still more of this mystery to uncover. Looking forward to seeing how this one ends!