Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson Review

Truly Devious | Maureen Johnson | Harper Collins | Pub: January 16, 2018 | Pages: 416

“We have a limited emotional vocabulary. We’re indoor kids.”

I have been in such a mood for mystery books and Truly Devious did not disappoint in the mystery department! Truly Devious flip flops between 1936 and present-day at Ellingham Academy. In 1936, Ellingham’s family was kidnapped along with a student who was just minding her own business reading. Come to present day, Stevie is accepted into the academy because of her obsession with the crimes thereof 1936. As Stevie tries to solve the crime in the first book, bad things start to happen, and a student is dead. Has Truly Devious made their return or is it a coincidence?

I enjoyed this book because you really can’t tell who is the “bad guy” so far. Apparently, we don’t find much out until book 3 which I am completely okay with because of how well this is written. Stevie is also a great character. She has really bad anxiety which is addressed throughout the book. She has to deal with a new school, new people, romance, and sometimes she doesn’t know how to handle that.

Truly Devious left off on a super cliffhanger. I am about to start The Vanishing Stair (book 2) right now and then I will be calling our local bookstore when they open to see if they have book 3. The store is supposedly open for 4 hours today so I am really hoping I can snag this book. When they all end in cliffhangers, I can’t wait to start them, has to be immediate.

If you love YA books and mysteries that take a while to figure out and aren’t super obvious, you’ll enjoy this book

This is book #1 from the Truly Devious series. This book has been on my TBR since 2018 and I just always pushed it further down the list, but I’m so glad I finally decided to read this book this year. It was really good and I just can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

First of all, this book got me right from the beginning with the setting; an old private school in Vermont made only for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. Stevie’s character was just the cherry on top for me! She’s a wannabe detective that loves everything murder/crime-related and knows everything there is to know about Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.

There were a lot of characters to get to know in this book, but once I got around to remembering all the characters' names, I really ended up loving the other characters as well. I’m curious to see if they will make an apparency in the second installment.

There were multiple storylines, all of which was truly mysterious. It definitely reminded me of an Agatha Christie book. There’s so much left to be discovered in the next books, I can’t wait for the stories to unravel.

The only reason this isn’t a 5 star, is because of the ending. There were still so many questions left unanswered and the story didn’t get further ahead really. However, I believe since this is Book 1, this was basically a 400-page story setup. Overall great premise, great characters, great story! Highly Recommend.


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.

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