BOOK REVIEW: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson


Title: Truly Devious
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Tyndale House Publisher
Genre: Romance
Pages: 320


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SYNOPSIS: (From 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. 


This story is so catching and gives me “Good Girls Guide to Murder” vibes. After previously reading Nine Liars, which is the last book in this series as of now, without realizing it was part of a series. It was fantastic and I loved the teen sleuth story line. So when I discovered it was a series I jumped right back to book one and started. I decided to do these on audio book because I have more time as I drive and the narrator was phenomenal.

The story starts by following Stevie Bell to Ellingham Academy as she tries to solve a decades old murder/kidnapping of founder Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter. What I did not expect to love, but did, was the back and forth between current day and Stevie trying to peace together current murders and old murders, but also the flashbacks to the original murder. I don’t love two full storylines at once usually, but the back story was compelling and interesting and I just loved trying to solve both, while I am sure the information was going to peace together. I did not realize it was not going to be done in one book though. That was a little disappointing! So if you expect everything to be solved in this book, it will not and you will be disappointed. However, I instantly have moved on to book two, so stay tuned.

Stevie is this relatable, awkward individual who knows right from wrong, but still sometimes knowingly makes the decision to do the wrong but with the best intentions. I love that she really likes her friends, but is also kind of suspicious of everyone, which is basically me in a nutshell. She’s fiesty, funny, and incredibly intuitive. I even love how the adults react to her in this book. All the characters are really well written and Johnson did a great job of creating this wide spread of individuals with all different personality types, traits, likes, and dislikes. It’s a weird mix of all the best kinds of people, even if some are incredibly annoying and terrible. It makes for really good reading!

The narrator in this book, Kate Rudd, did such a good job. She sounds like a teenager, and gets all those inflections and tones you hear from teenagers. I have one, I would know. She also does a great job at the other voices and I don’t know what it is but I sit and try to change my voice to be all these different people and it just does not work. So props to her. A narrator can literally make or break the enjoyment of an audiobook for me and I love Kate Rudd. I will be looking her up to see what other books she may have narrated because she really pushed this story over the top and helped me visualize it.

I am a huge fan of teen detective stories. I have been since I was a teen myself and it continues to be a type of story I love. This series so far is definitely in my top five favorites of all time. I cannot wait to read more and see what Stevie gets up to in the rest of the books. Stay tuned for more from me on Stevie Bell and friends! An absolute must read for all those who enjoy really twisty, intricate murder stories with a fun twist that the one solving them happens to be a teen! Such a great read for all!

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