Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious #1

truly devious -maureen johnson

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.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Truly Devious comes out January 16, 2018**

Truly Devious delivered two interesting mysteries that are connected through time, with a cast of individually unique characters.

Stevie is not your ordinary kind of girl. She loves crime with a passion, and hopes to solve an age-old mystery surrounding the school she’s about to attend. Although it doesn’t necessarily market it this way, I feel this portrayal of Stevie is akin to another young, Sherlock Holmes-esque girl protagonist, such as Brittany Cavallaro’s series. I liked this depiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lush descriptions of the settings. It was written very much in third-person view that mimics the feeling of older mysteries like Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. However, the downside to this was the inability to really connect with the characters, particularly Stevie. She’s not the most charming and sociably likeable girl so feeling the extra distance with her didn’t make it any easier in really investing in her and what’s happening in her life.

The vast cast of characters had its ups and downs too. It definitely made the mystery harder to figure out as there’re so many people that have been introduced. It could be anyone! But at the same time, there’s less room to invest in any of these characters, so much so that they start feeling a bit two-dimensional and whittled down to their stereotypical tropes.

The romance was all right, I suppose. I love my romance in any story as I feel it adds another layer of complexity to the characters. Stevie’s not too keen on getting into a relationship, and that’s fine. There is someone I can root for in the romance department, but it’s slow-going, and you never know if he’d turn out to be the culprit.

Although this story seemed to be a rollercoaster ride in my emotions and feelings towards it, Truly Devious was an easy read that I got through in a sitting or two. The mysteries are the heart of the whole thing, and while the ending was definitely by FAR from satisfactory in solving either of the crimes at hand, it hopefully sets the stage for some more amazing twists that are yet to unfold later on. The present-day mystery took a long while to really occur which made the plot a bit slow, yet there’s something beautiful about the way that the past and the present stories really intertwine so well. Overall, it was an interesting read from Maureen Johnson and I look forward to the sequel.

But if I’m honest, I kinda wished there was a bit more closure. And that ending! I can’t believe it just stopped there. You’ll just have to read and find out what kinda twists are in store.

P.S. that letter from Truly Devious at the beginning was really what reeled me in. You’ll know it when you see it. Like a letter from your nightmare.

Overall Recommendation:
Truly Devious fits well into the genre of excellent mysteries throughout the ages, with this book featuring a past and current murder that could very well be linked. I found the book slow going at times, particularly with the present-day mystery, but the descriptions are lush and well-written and the suspense was ramped up high. I love that I couldn’t really guess a culprit in the end, but the ending wasn’t all that satisfactory as it left us with more questions than answers. If that means you have to read the sequel, then what do ya know? Guess I’m hooked till the end. Overall, a good impression of Maureen Johnson for me.

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