Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 16th 2018
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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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
New Maureen Johnson book? New Maureen Johnson book!!! I was ecstatic to receive an ARC of Truly Devious, because I have been reading Johnson’s books since middle school and I religiously keep up with new releases from her. Plus, a mystery set at a boarding school?! Those are two of my favorite things. Luckily, Truly Devious delivered on my expectations!
Fellow fans of Johnson’s writing will be happy to know that Truly Devious has no shortage of her trademark smart writing. First off, I think she truly has found her calling as an author in writing mysteries. Secondly, she’s great at writing female characters who are witty and driven, but who also feel very true-to-life and relatable. Stevie is one of my favorite main characters I’ve read recently– she’s just kind of a badass. She loves true crime and comes to Ellingham Academy with the express purpose of investigating the famous Ellingham Affair kidnapping that occurred there in the 1930’s, but once she’s thrown into a real-life murder case, we see her grapple with the human side of crime. Her reactions to the horror unfolding on her campus felt refreshingly realistic for a YA protagonist. Despite being a badass crime aficionado and aspiring detective, she’s still a teenage girl dealing with investigating real-life crimes for the first time. And, like a real human, SHE CAN BE BOTH THOSE THINGS AT ONCE.
Also, I’m a sucker for boarding school settings, and Ellingham was no exception. I loved reading about the students’ daily lives on campus. I also love the cast of characters at Ellingham! They’re so varied, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from this kind of elite (but no-cost) boarding school. Each character has a specific interest they’re extremely passionate about, and it was fun to see them come into themselves as Ellingham allowed them to experience their passions fully for the first time.
As far as the mystery goes, I’m so intrigued! At this point, I genuinely have no idea who the culprit could be for either of the mysteries Truly Devious follows. (I guess it’s worth mentioning at this point that THIS BOOK IS NOT A STANDALONE. I REPEAT, NOT A STANDALONE. I’m not sure how many books are planned in this series, but just know that there’s really no resolution as far as the actual crimes/mysteries go at the end of this first book.) The alternating timelines really worked for me in this book, too. It allowed the reader to experience the original Ellingham Affair first hand so that we could be on the same page as Stevie as she delves further into investigating those events.
The one thing about Truly Devious that didn’t vibe well with me was the romance between Stevie and David. It just kinda… came out of nowhere? And I lowkey hate David as a person. Luckily, though, the romance didn’t play a huge role in the overall book, so it didn’t lessen my enjoyment enough to detract more than a star from my rating. Although, I will say, that *~plot twist~* at the end having to do with the romance? I AM INTRIGUED.
Overall, I highly recommend Truly Devious to any established fans of Maureen Johnson, as well as anyone looking for a solid YA boarding school mystery!
Have you read Truly Devious? If so, tell me your thoughts! If not, do you plan to read it?