4 star, YA

Review: The Hand On The Wall by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious #3

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

Book number three in the Truly Devious series. The fantastic finale to the trilogy in the the Ellingham case. Rarely do mysteries get stretched beyond even a single book, but Johnson did a pretty good job having enough content to explore over multiple books. As a finale, I found this finish to be worth my while, and overall enjoyed how everything came to be tied up nicely and resolved.

The Hand on the Wall once again follows our mini Sherlock, Stevie Bell, as she once again navigates Ellingham Academy to solve the mystery of the century. As layers and layers of secrets finally come to light, how will she face all the dangers that lurk within. Were all the recent casualties merely accidents, or was there something more sinister hiding within the walls at Ellingham Academy? This book gives the exciting finish to the mystery that we have been following for two books, and ties up all the loose ends.

Addressing the mystery portion first, I thought this was very well done. All the loose ends were tied up so nicely, but in a way that was very satisfying rather than overly neat. One of my favourite aspects of the novel(s) was that the glimpses of the past slowly became more and more informative and slowly divulged all the information that we wanted to know. At other times, questions left hanging in the past were answered in the present, another motif that I thoroughly enjoyed. Overall, having gone through the whole arc from beginning to finish, all the little loose ends left in the previous books coming all the way to the close was very satisfying. If you are looking for a mystery book that ties everything up (over 3 books) then look no further.

I definitely enjoyed the world that was built at Ellingham Academy. Yes I know it was no fantastical otherworld, but the mystery and intrigue built around just a single establishment on a mountainside was truly fantastic. It really makes you feel like you would also have wanted to have been selected to go to this school. Despite the place having a million secret tunnels and passageways, I found that the author put the right amount of them in the story. It is a pet peeve of mine when random secret tunnels or passageways conveniently appear out of nowhere to fix plot-holes, etc., but you won’t find that here in this story!

The characters and their relationships in this novel were also mostly believable and well constructed. There was abundance of (unforced) representation and diversity, which was very nice to see and enjoy. The characters that appeared were all natural, and remained consistent in their character as well. That is…all except one. I really only have one gripe with this book (and honestly, the series), and it is that her main relationship, or rather should I say “pairing” was just…not up my alley. I hesitate to say it was straight-up bad, but I can definitely say I did not enjoy it, and thought it really didn’t add much to the story except some teenage fluff. Honestly wish that it just wasn’t in the story at all, I thought that the main character Stevie was already very complete and interesting on her own.

Overall Recommendations

The Hand on the Wall is the third book in the Truly Devious series and is the final book in the mystery of Ellingham Academy. The main character, Stevie, little Sherlock extraordinaire, finally uncovers the final pieces of the mystery of the century. As all the pieces align and the final picture becomes clearer, the circumstances behind all the “accidental deaths” of late become more and more suspect. Will she solve the mystery in time? Or is there an unseen force trying to prevent that very thing? Find out in this exciting last installment of the mystery of Ellingham Academy!

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