Publishing Info: January 16, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult
Date Completed: February 19, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
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.
In my defense, I didn’t realize this was a series halfway through, so it did affect my reading experience BUT knowing that and getting to the ending was still preeeeetty disappointing. I love mysteries and read a lot of them and there are essentially two ways to end a book in a mystery series (to break it down to the bare bones): extend the mystery over the whole series OR have each book be one mystery that’s resolved in each novel. Obviously there are finer points than that, but those are essentially the two strategies here. TRULY DEVIOUS does not resolve in the first book, which is fine, but I was pretty disappointed at the lack of any closure whatsoever. We get some clues and Stevie comes to some conclusions but there’s really not even one answer to what happened in the present day or in the past. I was hoping for just one hint one way or another to bring some kind of closure to the book but still leading into the rest of the series and I really didn’t feel that at all.
I felt like the characters were more cohesive and realistic towards the end of the book — the beginning was kind of garbled with some of the students blending together but the personalities really started to shine towards the end. They were also all a little too quirky for my tastes, but you know how I get when a whole cast is quirky and not just a few select characters. I feel like it ruins the reality of that specialness and ends up just making everyone seem silly and unrealistic, though I guess this really was the school for the unique.
I also felt like there could have been a bit more history given in the flashbacks to the 1930s, just maybe some more for us to see how these two mysteries are connected, because we’re coming to that point even if we haven’t gotten there yet. I think it would have really tied the book together more for me and made me feel like we were going somewhere with the flashbacks. They’re definitely connected and that’s very obvious but I just wanted more to really tie them together.
I think the lack of any resolution just really let me down and left me feeling disappointed so I can’t say that I had fond feelings for the book, but I really do look forward to continuing the series knowing what I learned and what I’m in for!
Kept Me Hooked On: Unique mysteries. It was interesting to see something from the past connected to something in the present like this!
Left Me Wanting More: Answers. I didn’t realize this was a series going into it but I still would have liked something to at least wrap up this book in some way.
I didn’t LOVE it but it was definitely interesting! I’m curious about the next book but I think this might be a more binge series since the first book didn’t really close anything.