Saturday, 10 February 2018

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious, Book One
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: ARC**
Published: 16th January 2018
Number of Pages: 432
Book: For Review*
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller-Suspense, Crime Fiction, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Smoking References
Author's Site: Maureen Johnson

Blurb From 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.

“Riddle, riddle, on the wall
Murder comes to pay a call
The detective’s here. It’s time to play!
Truly Devious lives another day.”
In 1936, Albert Ellingham, one of the richest men in America, opened up a school for geniuses of all kinds.  It was meant to be an idyllic place where anyone could come to learn - where learning could be a game.
But the game took a dangerous turn when one day Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter vanished while on a drive, along with a young student.  A kidnapper who called themselves Truly Devious demanded a ransom, but Iris and Alice Ellingham were never seen alive again.
Now, eighty years later, crime obsessed Stevie Bell arrives at Ellingham Academy as a new student.  Her goal?  To solve this impossible mystery and discovered what really happened all those decades ago.
But her cold case is not so cold anymore as Truly Devious makes a shocking return and one of Stevie’s classmates ends up dead.
Once again, someone is playing a game with life and death and once again they seem to be getting away with it.
But the detective is on the scene now and Stevie will solve this case – before it’s too late...
Oh.  My.  God.  OhmiGod!  This book.  I’m such a massive geek when it comes to mysteries.  I watch way too many police procedural shows and I’ve been reading crime thrillers from much too young an age (I’m still scared of James Patterson’s books after being scarred for life by Kiss The Girls at the age of twelve or so).  So when I got sent Truly Devious, I was beyond excited – I have a real weakness for YA mysteries and I adore Maureen Johnson.  And Truly Devious totally did not disappoint – it was a twisty, exciting, utterly absorbing murder mystery and I loved every single second.  Because Truly Devious doesn’t just have one murder for us to solve – it has three!  I raced through the book, guessing all the time and getting pretty much every theory I had instantly thrown out of the window.  And that ending!  Bloody hell, Maureen – that was just cruel!  And I have to wait until 2019 for the second book!  2018 has only just started!  So please excuse me while I go have a minor breakdown and throw a pillow at the wall in a fit of detective-deprived fury.
Alrighty, I’m back!  Let’s talk suspects – I mean characters!  Maureen has created a lovely diverse cast, rich with possible suspects and bizarre personalities.  It’ll be hard to say too much without giving anything away – no spoilers, which means no giving away anything that might ruin the suspense!
Stevie – oh how I loved her!  She was such a great protagonist – brave, loyal, smart, a detective through and through.  She really was very Sherlock-esque at times, which is always fun!  Plus she was very dog-with-a-bone and I loved how intuitive she is.  And while I know I’m certainly no expert whatsoever on social anxiety, depression and panic attacks, I feel they were all accurately portrayed – or definitely in a way that felt utterly believable to me.
Janelle was an awesome best friend – totally weird and adorable and always wearing the most gorgeous clothes (I want her fashion sense).  Plus her and her paramour are just the cutest ever.  And then there’s Nate – a boy after my own heart, with his fantasy book and writing obsession!  Plus he totally gets the frustration of writing! 
The rest of the cast is... interesting.  Special props to Larry the security guard, Pix with the teeth and Ellie with her hidden alcohol stashes.  And as for David... well.  Let’s just say I have many reasons for wanting book two...  
Ah, the way Truly Devious was written!  I’ve read a few books that have a then/now kind of narration and I’ve always enjoyed it.  But Truly Devious just had more –because while we did get snippets into the past via the perspective of the past characters, we also got police interviews and articles and more!  I just loved it! 
But I’m docking a star for that ending – it was cruel!  Oh my God, Maureen Johnson!  That was so unfair!  I’m on the verge of another rant here – so I’m going to cut myself off before I can start.  Anyways, I’m often pretty good at guessing twists and t urns, but I was never able to untangle the mystery of Truly Devious.  I loved all the threads, all the clues, all the riddles and mysteries and murders.  It was all just so fun – in a bad, murder-y way.  And yes, I would honestly sell my soul or my kidney for book two right now.  Please, Maureen.  Please!
So clearly I adored Truly Devious.  It was just so brilliant and engaging and I honestly just couldn’t get enough.  Sort of like my beloved Murder Most Unladylike series, just for teenagers, Truly Devious was amazing – even if that cliffhanger almost killed me!  I was scared she would rush the ending – instead, she leaves me hanging, clinging to the edge of the cliff, hoping I don’t fall into the insanity that is waiting for a new book.
I feel this metaphor got away with me.  The point is Truly Devious is awesome and you all need to go read it.  Like, right now.

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
The Shades of London by Maureen Johnson
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Wells & Wong by Robin Stevens

Happy Reading
* This book was received from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book


pakescorts646 said...
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LibrariYAn said...

SPOILER ALERT! Fan theory time! Why is no one talking about Ellingham's unsolved riddle? I've been puzzling on the answer to "Where do you look for someone who is never really there. Always on a staircase, but never on a stair," and I think I have an answer. You ready? A photograph! People always have photos of their family members - including deceased relatives - on the wall by the stairs. I have no idea how it all relates. Oh! And the couple in the photo. Who are they? What role did they play?

Emma Simpson said...

Those two people I’ve a real theory about so Frankie and Edward kept mentioning a king obviously Albert but idk like he never seems to give us a vibe he views himself as such so it seems more like it is those two with a view of unfair power balance, which makes me think it’s pretty weird there’s another character in this book called Edward who surprise surprise has the last name King, now I think Frankie and Edward get married change there last name to King and Edward King who we now know is David’s father is actually Edward King jnr, their son.