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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.
The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.
Title: Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book and I’m not really sure where to start.
I guess I’ll start with the positives. Johnson weaved together this mystery really well. This is only book one so I was left with a lot of unresolved questions and problems. I appreciate how much thought went into this book. I mean, there were things from the beginning that I didn’t think would mean anything and then were very important moving forward.
As well, each character had a distinct and perplexing personality that left me guessing. It was easy to suspect each character from their odd interactions with the main character and their overall demeanors. I loved that I never really knew what was going to happen.
Along the same topic, pretty much every interaction in this book was odd and a little confusing. It was really the writing style of this book in general that left me a little perplexed. It made it feel like everything was a mystery that needed to be solved. I’m not sure how I feel about this writing style as it didn’t feel very personal. I don’t feel like I got to really get into the head of the main character, but it did add to the mysterious ambience.
One of the main negatives about this book was its pace. It felt like the book was never going to “begin.” The storyline felt like it never even took off until about halfway through the book. Even then, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The only time I felt like my heart was racing a little from the suspense was in the last 10 pages of the book.
I’ll definitely be reading the second because I want to know what happened, but I hope it moves at a better pace.
Overall, this was a well-thought-out and interesting book to read. I’d recommend it for those who enjoy prep school murder mysteries. My rating is a bit undecided because of my mixed feelings, but I’ll settle on a 3.5.