Welcome, or welcome back, to my little corner of the internet. I’m revisiting Ellingham Academy with the wonderfully witty Stevie Bell today, to review book two in the Truly Devious series, The Vanishing Stair. You can find my review of book one, Truly Devious, here.
All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham Academy.
For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.
The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.
This second book picks up very soon after the first finishes, with Stevie away from Ellingham and utterly miserable about it. She has the clues she found in Ellie’s room, carried with her at all times just in case of… anything. But aside from that, she is so far removed from Ellingham that when the devil himself turns up with an offer to get back to the crime scenes (and school, obviously), she hesitates, if only for a moment, before agreeing.
I really enjoyed this book, and felt a lot of empathy for Stevie, being caught in between a lot of players on the board without any tools, just a tea chest full of random clues. Forced into a position to keep secrets just to get back to Ellingham, she knows she will end up hurting a person she really cares about at some point, whether she intends to or not. So with that hovering over her, it’s hard for her to focus on her latest project: working with a Truly Devious case specialist on a new book. Fenton, as she wants to be called, lives in the town, and gives Stevie various projects to fulfil, all contributing, Stevie hopes, towards both a new book, and extra credit on the work she missed while away.
Just like the book before it, it takes place over a reasonably short time period, with a lot happening in it. It’s one of those that you sit down with a pot of tea (sorry, that sounds very British), and just keep reading. Although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Truly Devious, I still couldn’t put it down, and was very pleased that I’d made sure I had book three ready to go as soon as I’d finished! The twists and turns in this one were so very well thought out, and the development in characters was brilliant. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat very often, clawing at the little grains of sand that Stevie was collecting to form the bigger picture.
Tune back in for my review of the third book soon, too. If you’re looking for some recommendations for similar books, I’m planning a post about some of my favourite YA thrillers for later this month.