Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson
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.
I don't usually read mystery novels (with the exception of the J.D. Robb In Death series, but that's really just a really long romance series :D) but the cover and the synopsis of Truly, Devious grabbed my attention.
Unique Characters and Plot:
I liked the quirkiness of the different characters we meet: Stevie is next-level curious (and obsessed with Sherlock Holmes), Janelle is great with machinery and a dedicated inventor, and Nate is a brilliant write suffering from writer's block. The three of them are all first years in Minerva House and had become friends before actually meeting; I'm sad that we didn't get the chance to actually see Stevie spending more time with them because I thought that Janelle and Nate were really interesting. What really got my attention, though, was the plot. I thought it was really cool idea for Stevie to both be trying to solve the Ellingham murders from the past and then be involved in trying to solve a new murder of one of her classmates. While it didn't completely pan out the way I'd expected, I still really liked getting to meet the characters that we did and seeing the role they each played.
Didn't Always Keep My Attention:
I often felt like I had to force myself to get back to this book. I would put it down and would forget where I had left off and I was constantly backtracking to remind myself of what was going on. Once I was back into the book, it was entertaining but I really had to force myself to pay attention to some parts of it (there were moments were I just wanted to skim ahead, but had to stop myself). I never really felt that "hook" to it that I normally feel when reading -- that urge to not put it down until I'm done. That said, I still think that it was a fun read and I'll still be reading the next book in the series.
Too Much (Yet Not Enough) Backstory:
I was really interested in knowing more about the Ellingham's and the night of the kidnapping, but we jumped between really interesting flashbacks of the night kidnapping and some really boring historical moments. The "FBI Interviews" were incredibly dreary to read. I much preferred the flashbacks that actually put us in the story. It's also really hard to have so many characters to follow -- we're given people in the past and the present that are supposed to keep our attention, but I found that many of them were forgettable because we aren't given enough time with them. Besides Stevie, we don't have a ton of time to spend with other characters, which was pretty disappointing.
Overall, I think this was a fun read and I enjoyed reading a mystery instead of my traditional fantasy, dystopian, or romance novel. I did find that it didn't keep my attention as much as I would've liked, but I'm hopeful that the next book in the series will give us a chance to get to know the characters (both past and present) better, which I think will make a stronger connection for me when reading.
FINAL RATING: 3.5/5
5/15/2019 12:55:45 pm
I think you're wrong. This book is for anyone who loves a mystery. I couldn't put it down. Anyone who knows me knows that I never willingly read a book. Hell,I never read the books assigned to me in school, high school or college. I think you're horribly wrong. This book is absolutely amazing.
5/15/2019 08:34:25 pm
7/30/2019 07:05:28 pm
I really enjoyed reading your review on this book!! I’ve read the second book and was thinking, is there any chance Nate could be considered as the one behind at least one of the murders? It doesn’t seem like he’s doing much with his writing at all...so what is he doing? Plus, when Stevie first goes into his room she notices he has a box filled with random things like a chair leg and metal disk. When asked about it from Janelle, he gets quite defensive and makes up an excuse for it and then quickly hides it away from their view. I haven’t been able to get over that. Not just that scene but also the Halloween one. David and Stevie leave the party and are about to go into that tunnel when suddenly Nate shows up. He freaks out too when he learns that they want to investigate that place. Could it be because he knows Ellie is in there? Ahhh!! Sorry about making this so long, but I’d just love to hear about what you think. I do hope I’m wrong because I find Nate to be one of my favorite characters in this series.
12/27/2019 12:20:04 pm
I'm so sorry for my delayed response (I somehow missed your message!) but thank you for your sweet words about liking the review!
11/14/2019 03:45:16 pm
I think this book was Amazing and I think this book should be for people 13 and up
12/27/2019 12:17:35 pm
I think right now it's classified at Teen (YA), which is usually 14 and up! Do you think it should also be encourage to young readers (9-12)?
1/2/2020 04:09:35 pm
I think so too. This book is absolutely amazing!
12/15/2019 02:02:33 pm
Does anyone else ship Stevie and Nate?
12/27/2019 12:16:18 pm
I actually do! I feel like he's kind of just hanging out in the wings right now and I'd love to see more of him in the future! Fingers crossed!
1/6/2020 03:35:13 pm
Hey, I'm a Freshman reading the book project. I haven't had the chance to finish it and my project is due in a few days, mind answering a few questions about the book? (Can't wait to finish the book when I have more time!)
1/14/2020 07:02:06 pm
Hi Harper, I don't know if this response is to late or not (sorry!), but, yes you are correct:
4/22/2020 02:19:06 am
hey i never got to finish this book and i have a few questions can you please tell me what all of the roomates study at ellingham ?
7/11/2020 02:02:22 am
I actually agree with it having not much of a hoook
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Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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2020 Reading Challenge
Alexandra has read 20 books toward her goal of 85 books.
2019 Reading Challenge
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2018 Reading Challenge
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