by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
I don't know the last time that I was drawn into a book the way Maureen Johnson's Truly Devious (Amazon | Bookshop.org) drew me in. I quickly got through the rest of my "have-to" reads to devour the next two books in the trilogy (Amazon | Bookshop.org).
Truly Devious runs through two timelines. In the historical timeline, it's 1936, and we're with millionaire Albert Ellingham whose wife and daughter have been kidnapped from their home on the campus of the school that Ellingham started. The main clue is a threatening letter signed by "Truly, Devious." In the other timeline, it's present day, and Stevie Bell has enrolled in Ellingham Academy with a plan to solve the kidnapping (and, ultimately, murder).
I love the way Johnson writes characters—as in her Shades of London series, these are smart, self-aware people who have flaws and strengths, who are sometimes unlikable but always worthy of empathy. The way these two timelines wind together to develop dual mysteries, unveiled through interview transcripts and jotted-down notes, is clever, compelling, and so, so much fun. There's romance, conflict with parents, and the navigation of friendships to work through along the way.
Of course, it's hard to talk about The Vanishing Stair (Amazon | Bookshop.org) and The Hand on the Wall (Amazon | Bookshop.org) without spoilers, but I'll just say that they're just as smart, just as twisty, and just as satisfying as book one. I absolutely love what Johnson does with the Stevie and the rest of the characters, and I found the solutions to all of the mysteries to be so satisfying! (There is a fourth book, a sort of linked standalone, I understand. I'm saving that one—The Box in the Woods [Amazon | Bookshop.org]—to savor.)
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