Hello hello, and welcome to my little patch in this infinite world online. Today I’m reviewing the young adult murder mystery, Truly Devious. A friend recommended this series to me after I mentioned how much I had enjoyed A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, and she was absolutely correct in her suggestion that I would enjoy it.
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.
For Stevie, being admitted to Ellingham was like a dream come true, and she finally feels like she might be at a place where who is is as a person is not only embraced, but encouraged. Her parents have always wished for her to be different, to be ‘normal’, not understanding her interest in true crime, or how she ended up the exact opposite of them on pretty much every subject. The breath of fresh air she encounters is quickly whooshed out of her, however, when, on helping with with a project, one of her housemates ends up dead – and Stevie is second on the scene.
And things just aren’t adding up for Stevie. The ruling of an accident could be the case, but the more pieces she starts putting together, the less likely it seems, and she just can’t help herself from investigating.
The story was brilliantly written, full of uniquely crafted characters, all wonderful in their own ways, and I felt a huge wave of envy, wishing that Ellingham was real and I could have attended; what a place to get your education, where your ‘eccentricities’ are seen only as positives and helped to grow. Stevie was particularly relatable, and I have a soft spot for Nate, who is a writer, and puts writer’s block into words better than I’ve ever seen.
There are the usual demands of schooling to keep up with as well, and while Stevie is trying to solve the murder mystery that has haunted the place – and her – for so long, she finds the balance between the two one that is hard to strike, especially combined with her anxiety. It was really great to see this represented; the honesty of the fact that sometimes high intelligence comes hand in hand with highly strung nerves.
I found the book to be an absolute gem of a read, well structured, well paced, and well written. I had no hesitation at all in rating it five stars, and I can’t wait to see what the second book, The Vanishing Stair, has to offer.