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Truly Devious Series by Maureen Johnson

Hello everyone!

It’s publishing day for The Box in The Woods by Maureen Johnson. This is one of my most anticipated reads for this year. I preordered it back in December and I’m so happy to finally have it! In honor of it being published today I decided to do a series recap/recommendation of the Truly Devious series! I found out about this series on tiktok back in the fall of 2020. Everyone was recommending it. I finally got around to reading it in the fall and I wish I had read it sooner. I even persuaded my dad to read the series too. Because this is a recapping of a series there may be some light spoilers in the summary.

Let’s get into it!

Truly Devious

Tw murder/violence/kidnapping

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

Stevie Bell has the opportunity of a lifetime to attend Ellingham Academy in Vermont. A prominent boarding school, Ellingham is the location of a devastating tragedy and unsolved crime. Founded by businessman and genius, Albert Ellingham, tragedy strikes one night when both his daughter and wife are kidnapped. The only clue left behind was a riddle filled letter signed Truly Devious. Almost 100 years later, Stevie is attending the school with other genius students whose studies focus on a myriad of things, from robotics to theater but Stevie isn’t there for that. She’s there to solve the case. But suddenly Truly Devious has returned and nothing is as what it seems.

This book is one hell of a kickoff to a series. Stevie Bell is a modern-day sleuth who obsesses over this crime. She has a perfect blend of genius but teenage angst. She spends a lot of the novel feeling as if the school made a mistake in choosing her. The side characters and potential suspects are just as interesting. I really enjoy murder mysteries so this book is a great example of that. Because its the first of a series nothing is really tied up at the end because it leads in to the second novel but as a starting point this novel is great. It creates intrigue and establishes interesting characters that you want to know more about. It also starts the modern day mystery that Stevie is trying to solve as well as the original mystery.

The Vanishing Stair

Tw murder/violence/kidnapping

Publication Date: January 22, 2019

After a few months at Ellingham, Stevie is no closer to solving the crime of the century and now one of her classmates is dead. Stevie’s parents pull her from school but when David’s father, a Senator Stevie hates, propositions that she returns to school as his spy, Stevie isn’t sure what to do. As much as she wants to return she doesn’t feel that she should betray David’s trust. But there is a mystery and a death to solve and Stevie has to go back. Upon her return, Stevie learns even more about the school, the victims, and her classmates who seem to have secrets of their own.

This book's pacing was a little faster than the first novel in the series. This book does a lot of the heavy lifting for explaining the original crime. A lot of the clues and timeline of events are explained and expanded in this novel. The kidnapping of Alice Ellingham and the series of events that happen in response are fully fledged out. While the reader is learning more of the truth than even the characters, Stevie an her friends are trying to figure out if the accident that occurred in the first book was murder or not and solve a disappearance. I also liked that Stevie teamed up with a true crime novelist to sort through evidence and solve the crimes. Everything is woven so intricately that you begin to learn that maybe there is something more going on than anyone realized.

The Hand on the Wall

Tw murder/violence/kidnapping

Publication Date: January 21, 2020

With three people now dead, one from an “accident”, one from running away and the other from a strange tragedy, Ellingham is on the brink of closure. Even with these murders, Stevie has solved the crime of the century. She knows who Truly Devious is, or at least she thinks so. With the school under investigation and a potential murderer on the loose, Stevie and her friends are faced with the last task of finding David and finding Alice Ellingham. When the school is meant to be evacuate, the gang stays and focuses on solving the crime.

The ending of this book had a great plot twist I didn't see coming. You as the reader learn the whole truth to the disappearance of Alice Ellingham whereas when Stevie solves the crime she only knows what happens based on the evidence she found. There is a lot more to the story you as the reader learn that Stevie doesn't even know. This was a great ending. It tied everything up and connected all of the accidents and murders from the previous two novels. I really enjoyed this series and I really think everyone should read it.

The Box in the Woods is a standalone novel. With the main mystery and storyline completed in the trilogy, the characters embark on a new adventure. I'll include the GoodReads description below.

After solving the case of Truly Devious, Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

As part of promotion for this book, Maureen Johnson wrote and produced a true crime podcast about the murder that takes place in the novel. In the podcast you learn that in July of 1978 four camp counselors go into the woods around the camp for a drug run, weekly purchase of marijuana, and are all murdered. Three of the counselors are found in a deer blind, box, and their deaths are staged as if they were committed by a notorious serial killer, the Woodsman. This fictitious serial killer was active in the 1970s on the East coast where he would murder his victims and leave them in a box in the woods. I will link the podcast down below. Its 20 minutes long and gives a great background before reading the novel.

Let me know if you guys are interested in an individual review of The Box in the Woods! I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for its delivery.

Until the next post!


The Box in the Woods Podcast:

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