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.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book and all the others that Maureen Johnson has written. So when I saw that it was immediately available to borrow as an audiobook from my library I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did.
If you like murder mysteries this will absolutely be a book for you. The story follows two mysteries. One that happened years ago that, while someone was convicted of the crime, many still think of as unsolved, and another following our main character, Stevie, and the adventure she embarks on in an attempt to solve the decades-old murder. I was sucked into this mystery right from the start. I love stories about kids going away to boarding school and Ellingham Academy is one that sounds awesome. The school itself is shrouded in mystery with tunnels and mysterious students and what not. I think this book ultimately left me with more questions than it answered.
The characters were fantastic. Stevie is a Sherlock Holmes nerd and aspires to be a detective when she’s old enough. She’s constantly questioning everything she sees and everything she knows. She’s just an inquisitive person. This seems to rub some individuals the wrong way. Her two closest friends, Nate and Janelle, are great. They both have distinct and unique personalities that made me laugh and kept me interested. I liked this combination of three together. They balanced one another out well enough. Then there were the other three students living in the same dorm as the three friends. Because they all lived together they became a makeshift group of friends who sat together at lunch and dinner times and did other miscellaneous things as a group. Ellie was totally out there. I liked her for most of the book. She was the wild child, the free spirit that did what felt good and said what came to her mind. Hayes was the airhead. An aspiring actor, he came off as kind of flaky to me. He seemed to have a bigger sense of self like he thought he was better or more important than everyone else but didn’t make it super obvious like the typical snob. Then there’s David. I liked him right from the start, even though Stevie didn’t. I don’t know what it was that made me like him, but I liked him the whole book. He was probably my second favorite after Stevie. He was just so intriguing I guess. I think maybe it’s because learning more about him was like pulling teeth. Stevie mostly tried to stay away from him, until she stopped trying to stay away and started to try to get to know him. Much to her frustration, he wasn’t interested in letting her learn a whole lot about him. I think that mystery is part of what made me like him so much. And then, of course, the way this book ended (HELLO CLIFFHANGER) just makes me want the next book so that I can know what is actually going on in the world because the lack of information is literally going to kill me.
Anyway, overall, aside from the cliffhanger that left me asking more questions than I got answered through the whole book, I loved it. I thought the audiobook was read very well. The story was interesting and kept my attention the whole time. I ate up every word of both present day and past mysteries. I can’t wait for the next book to come out so that maybe I can have my sanity returned because I don’t even know what just happened with that ending.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.
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