Truly Devious Series by Maureen Johnson

Friday, January 14, 2022


Truly Devious: A Mystery and series by Maureen Johnson

Published by Katherine Tegen Books, January 16, 2018

Genre: YA Thriller, YA Popcorn

Format: I audiobooked these via Sora.

I liked this series. I know this because I read the whole series --- except The Box in the Woods, a "standalone" novel, which features Stevie, the main character of the series solving a mystery outside of Ellingham Academy, where the first three books take place. 

Stevie leaves her average high school and her political activist parents to attend Ellingham Academy, a secluded private boarding school that recruits and/or accepts students with top skills in their areas of interest. What sets Stevie apart is her interest in solving crimes, particularly the historical crime that involved Ellingham's original owner and his wife and child in the 1930s. 

Over the course of the book, Stevie meets dormmates, schoolmates, teachers, school staff, and townies interested in the case. Schoolmates die, and new mysteries intertwine with the 1936 mystery. Is the school haunted? Is there a murderer among them?

Critics of the series consider Stevie and her friends a bunch of liberal hipsters and question the inclusion of politics in the story. I can understand that criticism. Others write that an additional subplot, maybe backstory on more of the other characters, could have added interest. That's true, too. This feels like one book that was split into three separate volumes. 

What stood out to me about this book begins with the bit I copied below: "There's nothing so serious as a game." Even though the books are intense: teens die, somehow, Johnson makes the mystery feel like a game. It could be the timely switches between modern time and the 1930s. It could be the riddles that keep appearing, making the crime more "game-like." It could be the labyrinths and winding roads that make up the setting, giving the school an almost video-game-like quality. Some might find "murder as a game" to be off-putting, but since this is fiction, it kept my attention. 


“There is nothing so serious as a game.”

“What you lack in any investigation is time. With every passing hour, evidence slips away. Crime scenes are compromised by people and the elements. Things are moved, altered, smeared, shifted. Organisms rot. Wind blows dust and contaminants. Memories change and fade. As you move away from the event, you move away from the solution.”


This isn't a series I'd probably take the time to read twice, but it held my attention through three books. If you're interested in a quick mystery that may surprise you or you want to read a "thriller" that's organized in a unique way, check it out.

No comments

Post a Comment

Copyright © Betwain. Blog Design by