Review: Truly Devious

Talk about a YA Mystery! If you’re looking for a unique mystery to solve than you definitely need to pick up Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I was lucky enough to meet her a few weeks ago and was so excited when my group of friends picked this book to listen to on our road trip down to Santa Monica for YALLWest.  Little did we know we’d end up with more questions than answers!

About: Truly Devious

Truly Devious.jpgAuthor Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.

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.

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5 Stars

This book was filled with so much mystery. I loved it from beginning to end. Not only was the setting and story line unique but so were each of the individual characters you get to know throughout reading/listening to the story. Maureen Johnson did an amazing job of blending present day with that of the past because not only are you getting on mystery but a few. Maureen does a great job of putting you back in time and them bringing you back to the present with the two POV’s she’s written about.
The first incident happened in the 1930’s with a kidnapping and murder. Ellingham Academy reminds me of a combination of H.H. Holmes and The Winchester mansions with it’s unique design. If you’re not careful you may end up in a tunnel that leads you down to the place where bad things happen. I loved the way Mr. Ellingham is portrayed in this book. He’s a rich guy who builds a mansion in the Vermont mountainside where he plans on inviting the most intelligent young minds to attend. Shortly after the first students arrive things take a turn for the worst and all Mr. Ellingham and the authorities have to go on is a riddle. He becomes obsessed over the years with the unsolved murder and kidnapping that took place in his mansion that you find yourself wondering if maybe he had a hand in the crimes.
The second incident happens in present day where Stevie Bell, an aspiring Sherlock Holmes, gets accepted into the school. Little does she know she’ll be mixed up in more mystery than she could ever have imagined. She is such a sassy character whose inner dialogue says everything you’re thinking. I loved her character because it offered so much humor to what you’d think would be a dark tale. She has studied the events that took place in Ellingham Academy all those years ago and is convinced that what the world’s been told about what happened at the academy is not what really happened. You’ll definitely go on quite the ride with Stevie while you try to piece together the evidence that is given to you throughout the book as it jumps between the 1930’s and present day.
Stevie is also surrounded by the most unique of characters. Element is the quirkiest of them all in my opinion. She almost has a Luna Lovegood feel about her. At one point you find her in the pink waters of the upstairs bath tub while wearing her pantaloons and corset. There’s obviously no other way to dye them the pink you want them to be! You’ll also get some darker more mysterious characters from the movie star who doesn’t seem to know the facts about what he’s supposed to have written, the writer who has serious writers block, and the boy with the secrets he is determined to keep hidden.
By the end of this book you’ll be left with so many questions that the next year will feel like an eternity until you get book two. Little did I and my road trip buddies realize it was actually a trilogy until we were almost to the end of the book and we’d had more questions than we had answers. It added even more to the mystery of this story. We were enraptured the entire time and couldn’t wait to finish it when we took off on our 10 hour journey home!

About the Author


Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue EnvelopesSuite ScarlettThe Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan). Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

Find Maureen Here!

19 thoughts on “Review: Truly Devious

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  1. I absolutely loved this book. The setting, the characters, the dual mystery — loved it all. I found Stevie to be such a fascinating MC, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you loved it too!! She has such a dry matter of fact humor that I was always waiting for what she would say, or think, next. It’s going to be a long wait for the next one!


  2. I love that you and your friends all listened to this together. That sounds like so much fun. I am a big Maureen Johnson fan. The moment I heard about this book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I currently have it from the library. I’m just taking a break from thrillers for this month. Do you recommend the audiobook?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yay I’ll wait for the audiobook to become available to read it then. This month I am on a break from thrillers but last month I read some really good ones. They were Bring Me Back, Bring Her Home, and Unraveling Oliver. I highly recommend all of those. They were really good.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yay I hope you enjoy them! I have been so excited about Truly Devious the moment I heard about it. I’ve been waiting for the audiobook to come in. I honestly might just start it without it cause I’m dying to read it.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s totally understandable! I listen to books a lot during the school year when I’m commuting. I want to start listening when I’m doing things like cleaning or working on my bullet journal but I’m not great at paying attention to two things at once so I’ll have to try it out!


      2. I listen the most when I’m at work. If I start to rewind a lot then I’ll switch to a podcast or catch up on Hulu or something. My commute used to be longer but I can still get in a good hour a day on during that time.

        Liked by 1 person

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