Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book Review: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: Truly Devious #1

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.

The only character that truly stood out to me in this novel was our leading lady, Stevie Bell. To be completely honest, I did not start developing a true interest or connection to her until the second half of the book. Her character is quirky and is, of course, trying to fit in at her new school, but she doesn’t do anything totally remarkable until after the climax of the novel. The entire first part of the book builds her up to be this excellent sleuth who can solve any crime or murder, but I was wondering when we, the readers, would get to see the follow-through.

You have to give her time to develop and work out the kinks of her "odd" teenager personality, but I promise that she does get better and she will grow on you as you read. I found myself starting to relate to her more and root for her actions as the story went on and as the action developed. I am now more than excited to continue in this series!

I am probably among the minority of people who have not read a Maureen Johnson book. Firstly, this book was over four hundred pages and I got through it in about three days without any agony. For me, this means that the writing is smooth and the pacing is fast and action-packed. I was nervous at first for the alternating story lines – as I usually am – but Johnson really hooked me with this cold case murder mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for fifty plus years.

My favorite parts were when Johnson described details from the original murder mystery and began to develop them as the story progressed. I am anxiously awaiting the moment when Stevie solves this cold case because I know it’s going to happen. I find that with murder mysteries and thrillers, I expect the pacing to be fast and the plot to keep me guessing. I definitely had that with Maureen’s latest book. The premise behind Truly Devious was chilling and will excite mystery/thriller fans.

“There is nothing so serious as a game.” 

“When the darkness came for Dottie, it was quick and it was total.” 

“How are you so smart?” Stevie asked. “I read a lot,” Janelle said, smiling. She unzipped the front of her bag, shoved her pass inside and secured the lanyard to a clip, and zipped the bag back up again. Janelle did everything completely, even putting her pass away. “And I’m just amazing.” 

This book left off on a huge cliffhanger and it has me so stoked for the next book in the series. I have so many questions that I need to have answered and I cannot wait to follow Stevie on her journey of solving this year’s old mystery. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves young adult and even those that love mystery stories and need something lighter for reading in between. The book has its dark moments and was just what I needed to get me through this chilly winter weather!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you enjoyed this one! I have read Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series and really enjoyed it so, I'm really pumped for Truly Devious! It sounds very intriguing! Thank you for sharing your review! Hope you have an amazing week!

    Elena @ Book Lady's Reviews