top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

ICYMI: This is the first in Johnson's young adult series, set in a boarding school in rural Vermont, with compelling past and present mysteries and bright young Stevie Bell on the case(s).

" one was going to discount Stevie Bell, who had gotten into this school on the wings of her interest in the Ellingham case, and who had been a bystander at a death that was now looking more and more suspicious.”

Ellingham Academy is an elite boarding school in rural Vermont. It was founded in the early 1900s by Arthur Ellingham, a tycoon who wanted to encourage bright young thinkers and creatives and said he wanted learning to be a game.

But after the school opened, Ellingham's wife and daughter were kidnapped.

Decades later, mystery aficionado Stevie Bell arrives as a new student at Ellingham Academy, determined to crack the cold Ellingham case. But a new mystery emerges--and Truly Devious, who had taken credit for the original crime, seems to be back, with murder in mind.

“I annoy people," he said. "Believe me. I'm aware. It's an effective way to communicate if you don't have any other options. If you can't get in through the door, throw a rock through the window. And I think maybe you're the same way."

I was all in for the characters' friendships, various talents and offbeat interests, and their appealingly messy challenges (anxiety, emotional connection, problem-solving). Past newspaper articles and notes are interwoven throughout the story, along with narrative to flesh out the 1936 timeline. The wonderfully wrought rural Vermont setting, copious teen angst, and the long-ago but persistent and compelling mystery hooked me completely.

But what a cliffhanger of an ending—I recommend not starting Truly Devious until you have the next book (The Vanishing Stair; the third book is The Hand on the Wall) ready to go.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

You might also like the young adult mysteries One of Us Is Lying, One of Us Is Next, and the stellar A Good Girl's Guide to Murder and its sequels Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good As Dead (I haven't yet read this one but have high hopes).

If you like young adult books, you might be interested in the titles that make up the Greedy Reading Lists Six Royally Magical Young Adult Series and Six Fantastic Stand-Alone Young Adult Books.


bottom of page