New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.
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.
Part of Series: Truly Devious (Book 1)
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Underage drinking, Smoking
Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Stevie Bell’s deepest wish is to see a dead body. A true-crime aficionado and aspiring detective, she wanted to come to Ellington Academy for one reason: it’s the site of one of the most infamous unsolved kidnappings in the world. Founded by the wealthy, generous Albert Ellington, the private school is an academic haven where learning is playful. But in the 1930s, Ellington’s wife and young daughter were kidnapped, held for ransom, and then, presumably, murdered; the true perpetrator, who left enigmatic letters signed “Truly, Devious,” was never found. Stevie is determined to solve the crime, but her new housemates have secrets of their own, and her wish may come true sooner, and more frighteningly, than she ever wanted it to. Johnson (The Name of the Star, 2011) deftly twists two mysteries together—Stevie’s investigation is interspersed with case files and recollections from the Ellington kidnapping—and the result is a suspenseful, attention-grabbing mystery with no clear solution. Invested readers, never fear—this is just the first in a series.
Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Aspiring sleuth Stevie Bell has just started her junior year at Ellingham Academy–an artsy Vermont enclave for offbeat students founded in the 1930s by eccentric philanthropist Albert Ellingham–when disaster strikes. One of her new classmates dies under mysterious circumstances in one of the campus’s hidden tunnels. The event uncannily evokes a tragedy that took place eighty years earlier when Ellingham’s wife and daughter disappeared. While the bodies of his wife and of an unlucky student were discovered later, his daughter was never found. The only clue is a cryptic riddle signed “Truly, Devious.” Stevie, an armchair expert in the Ellingham murder, now has two cases to crack. But she’s distracted from her mission by her ongoing battle with clinical anxiety and a blossoming attraction to her brooding housemate David, who just may be hiding secrets of his own. Told in alternating chapters that chronicle both Ellingham’s past ordeal and Stevie’s current detecting, Johnson’s finely tuned plot effectively employs classical mystery tropes while maintaining a thoroughly modern sensibility. Stevie’s quirky, ragtag bunch of new friends crosses sexuality and class lines, providing teen readers with a wealth of characters to connect with. And if the pacing is a bit leisurely, it’s only because Johnson is setting the stage for a planned trilogy. jennifer hubert swan
About the Author
Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls’ Catholic school and graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City.
Many of the adventures Maureen’s characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Hank and John Green.
Her website is www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com.
Around the Web
Truly Devious on Amazon
Truly Devious on Goodreads
Truly Devious Publisher Page