One ‘Truly Devious’ Mystery

Emma Lovato, News Editor

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Truly Devious

By Maureen Johnson 420 pp. Katherine Tegen Books. $17.99.

Truly Devious is the first in an enthralling new trilogy by New York Times Bestselling Author Maureen Johnson.

The novel surrounds the infamous Ellingham Academy, an “idyllic and fantastical” school that is a haven for unique, creative, and innovative teenagers.

In 1936, the year after the school is opened, the wife and daughter of business tycoon and founder of the academy, Albert Ellingham, are kidnapped for ransom with the singular clue being a threatening letter signed by the alias, “Truly, Devious.”

Many years later, the academy welcomes its new class of students, and among them is  Stevie Bell. Stevie is ambitious and true-crime obsessed, and believes she can solve the Ellingham cold case. But her amateur detective skills will be put to the test when death returns to Ellingham in a mysterious way.

The book switches between the events of 1936 and present day. With this, readers are able to get their hands on detailed accounts from each time period.

In the present day accounts, we experience the story from Stevie’s third person point of view.

Stevie is self-aware and reliable even as she manages her anxiety disorder. She is one of the most likable characters and we learn to trust her accounts of the events taking place.

Stevie is relatable to teenagers through and through, whether it be from her feelings of loneliness or self-conscious attitude, or her confusion when she gets her first crush at Ellingham. She is hilarious and candid, and while she is insecure at times, she projects her best self towards everyone.

Even more relatable are Stevie’s housemates. Diverse in backgrounds, as well as interests, Maureen Johnson does an excellent job in including natural diversity one might see at an actual high school.

Pix is unique and lively, and gives Stevie the most poignant impression of her future at Ellingham.

Not to mention David, who is aloof and mysterious, but somehow attracts Stevie’s attention right up until a plot twist at the end where we find out that he is connected to Stevie’s life in a shocking way.

As well as Janelle, Stevie’s first friend at Ellingham, whose main characteristic is not that she is a lesbian, but rather her intense interest in science and technology that helps Stevie throughout the novel.

This novel is enthralling and engaging until the very end. Perfect for both mystery and contemporary fans, Maureen Johnson keeps her audience interested with her intricate and detailed plot as well as a parade of unique and fascinating characters.

The book will leave readers at the edge of their seats, and have them begging for Johnson to release the next book in the series as soon as possible.

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