Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

TrulyDeviousTruly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 16, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery

Pages: 420 Format: Hardcover Source: Purchased

4.5/5 Stars

Image and Description Credit: Goodreads

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. 


With the start of this new series, Maureen Johnson brings mystery and mayhem to a mountainside school. Truly Devious follows the escapades of Stevie Bell as she arrives at an innovative boarding school as well as the kidnappings Ellingham Academy is famous for. With an intriguing plot and compelling characters, I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick this up.

What’s a murder mystery without a whole host of suspects? As Ellingham Academy is a school, there are plenty of characters to both love and question. Stevie was a fascinating protagonist, anxiety ridden and passionate about crime. Janelle was a complete extrovert and an engineer/inventor. Nate though, the writer, was such an introvert but totally a good friend. Ellie was wild but super cool, Hayes was a jerk, and David was kind of wishy washy. And all of them live in the same house!

I’ve always loved Johnson’s writing and this book was so deliciously plotted with all the evidenced laid out for the reader to piece together. Both the past and present provide plenty of clues, revelations, and clever misdirects and I loved seeing how the characters responded to each moment. Honestly I haven’t read a lot of YA mystery but this one certainly will leave readers reeling especially after that cliffhanger.

Overall Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious was a riveting murder mystery with a super unique setting. The two timeline storytelling really solidified this book and the characters brought dimension and life to the page. Johnson’s writing was just as wonderful as always and I’m always glad to have her books in my hands. Obviously I totally recommend this one!

Have you read Truly Devious? Do you love a good murder mystery?

Let me know in the comments below!

One thought on “Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

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