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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

First Mystery in Intriguing Trilogy a Clever, Confounding Delight

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ellingham Academy has never been a typical school.  Opened in 1936 by an eccentric millionaire who delighted in puzzles and games, the institution features trapdoors, dank catacombs, hidden rooms, and other surprises even its founder didn't know about.  Perched atop a craggy mountain in Vermont, its isolated campus wouldn't appeal to most teens.  An average adolescent would be put off not just by the school's remote location, but also by its haunted history.  Not long after the school opened, a villain dubbed "Truly Devious" struck, kidnapping the founder's wife and 3-year-old daughter.  Despite a paid ransom, only Irene Ellingham's corpse was returned.  While the body of a murdered student was also discovered, the fate of little Alice Ellingham remains unknown, the case long gone cold.  Even 80 some years later, it's enough to spook an ordinary kid.  Which Ellingham students certainly are not.  Still.
While the unsolved crimes—ancient though they may be—might make some students uneasy, Stephanie "Stevie" Bell cannot wait to get to Ellingham Academy.  A true crime aficionado, the 16-year-old is itching to have a go at the school's unsolved mysteries.  With unparalleled access to campus, she has everything she needs to find out what happened to Alice.  And she intends to do just that.

When "Truly Devious" strikes once again at Ellingham, however, Stevie's shaken to her core.  Turns out, murder isn't nearly as glamorous in real life as it seems in the movies.  Still, she knows she must put her detecting skills to use.  With two cases—one cold and one horrifyingly fresh—she has her work cut out for her.  

I'm a big fan of Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, so when I heard she was penning a new series, I couldn't wait to check it out.  Truly Devious, the first installment in a planned trilogy, introduces the intriguing setting, its twisty mysteries, and a whole host of colorful characters.  There's a lot going on in this novel, it's true, but the story never feels cluttered, confusing, or dull.  On the contrary, it's engaging, funny, and—since you're never quite sure what exactly is going on—suspenseful.  Because Truly Devious is the first book, naturally it ends without answers to every question.  Still, it's a satisfying tale that will leave you salivating for its sequel.  If you can't tell, I loved this one.  My 16-year-old daughter didn't even wait until I finished the book to start devouring it herself.  She adored it as well.  Now we just have to wait patiently for A WHOLE YEAR before Book 2 comes out.  Argh.

(Readalikes:  Although there's no magic at Ellingham Academy, Truly Devious does feel a little Harry Potter-ish)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, depictions of underage drinking, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Truly Devious from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. That’s the problem with good books in a series. You’re always waiting for the next great installment.

  2. I know....we have to wait. It's why I often wait until at least #2 is out before reading #1. Did not do that in this case, so waiting, waiting, waiting. I'm thinking of rereading the Shades of London series maybe later in the summer.

  3. This one sounds like a book I would enjoy. Why can't I just spend all my time reading?!

  4. I like the sounds of this mystery. A little YA, a murder, a spooky school... it's all good!

  5. I have enjoyed most of her books, so I think I'll give this one a try. Thanks.

  6. I haven't read a book by Maureen Johnson yet but all the reviews for this one have me curious. Glad you enjoyed it!


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