Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

January 19, 2018     erinthebooknut     Book review

Truly Devious by Maureen JohnsonTruly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 16th 2018
Pages: 432

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

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. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

5 Nuts


That’s pretty much my reaction to this whole book. I’ve always been a bit if a mystery nut. I probably own just about every Agatha Christie in existence. So when the description said “for fans of Agatha Christie” I was super excited.

Happily this book is exactly as promised. The mystery itself reads like something out of Dame Agatha novel (Murder on the Orient Express, anyone?) Johnson has a talent for creating the perfect unsolvable mystery, and the only detective capable of solving it.

Stevie is the perfect combo of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. With a slight dash of Miss Marple’s eccentricity. She’s your typical old soul teen, trying to be different from everyone around her. But she’s also an extremely capable and brilliant detective. But the thing I liked best about her is the same thing that took the tropeiness and made it into a more real character: the portrayal of Stevie’s anxiety.

I’m always down for good anxiety rep and this book has it in spades. Not only did I identify with Stevie but everything from the description of her attacks to her coping mechanisms reminded me of myself. Stevie’s passion is sometimes at odds with this and it makes for a compelling juxtaposition.

The only thing I didn’t find myself keen on was the love interest situation. It just doesn’t feel necessary with all the other drama going on. People are dying, maybe now isn’t the best time to argue about your love life? That and I just think David is a dick.

Regardless, this is one of the few times when there are two different timeline POVs that I didn’t have a clear favorite. I didn’t find myself wishing for the current POV to end or wanting to just scan certain parts just to get through to the next part.

When I started this book I didn’t realize it was part of a series. So when I got to the end I was both shocked by the ending and ravenous for the next book. This is that kind of mystery. I will absolutely be reading the next book, and in fact it might be my most anticipated book now.

What did you think of Truly Devious? Share your thoughts in the comments.

From my shelf to yours,


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