Truly Devious

Truly Devious

Book Club Kit - 2018
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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.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2018 * Junior Library Guild Selection * 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nomination * 2019 ALA's Best Fiction for Young Adults Nomination * Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2018 * Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction 2018 * 2018 Nerdy Book Club Young Adult Winner * Seventeen Best YA Book of 2018

Publisher: New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062338051
Branch Call Number: BOOK CLUB TRULY DE
Characteristics: 10 books (420 pages), 1 discussion guide, 1 bag.


From Library Staff

3. Boarding schools + multiple timelines + MURDER.

"Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. 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 ... Read More »

LPL_CentennialC Feb 26, 2018

Calling all true crime lovers! Were you on the edge of your seat for Serial? Have you devoured every adaptation of Sherlock? Then Truly Devious should be your next read. Folks, I couldn't put this one down!

Aspiring teen detective & true crime nerd Stevie Bell finds herself attending Ellin... Read More »

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Gina_Vee Oct 26, 2019

I'm not really a mystery novel reader, but this book was good! First in a series. I almost couldn't put it down.

Sep 04, 2019

I have super mixed feelings about this book. First off there are two different mysteries going on in this book. One that happened right after the prohibition era where Ellingham's family is kidnaped by "Truly Devious" and the other mystery is in present day where Stevie Bell's classmate has been found murdered at the Ellingham academy. Basically it was like reading two books in one. One mystery I was really, really invested in and the other mystery was so boring I couldn't care less about solving it. The one that I was really invested in was the original "Truly Devious" case about the kidnappings. I loved the flashback sequences for this case... Everything else in this book was just filler in my opinion to get back to the case that I really wanted to know about!


Only one mystery gets solved in this novel. As you can probably guess it was the mystery with Stevie Bell and her classmate... that I couldn't have cared any less about!!!! It's like Maureen Johnson knew she was going to hook people with the Truly Devious case and wanted to prolong our suffering and sell a few more books... so she made this book into a series! There are currently 3 books planned for this series and I bet I will have to read all 3 before ever finding out about Truly Devious... I just wish I could throw away all the parts with Stevie Bell and combine the original mystery of Ellingham into one book, because then this would have been an A+ book. That being said, I didn't hate this book and I REALLY want to know how the original case is solved, so I will probably end up finishing this series. I can't leave a mystery unfinished.

Jul 08, 2019


I went through this one SO fast it's not funny. I picked it up on the recommendation of a coworker; she kept telling me it was really good and always kept you guessing...and she did not lie.

I was hooked from basically the beginning of the book, I'm a sucker for anything historically based, and like a lot of people I've kinda always wanted to see what boarding school might be like. (Still waiting for my Hogwarts letter BTW. The owl's only...a few decades late).

Stevie, I loved Stevie. She was just so interesting and different and any girl who likes to read is a girl after my own heart. I felt a bit overwhelmed with all the side characters at first, but you get to know them quickly and I became interested in all of them.

I don't want to spoil the plot or the Big Event close to the end, but I can't believe my coworker didn't tell me it's a cliffhanger like that!!! I have the second book on my desk right now, and I'll be diving into that one soon!

Highly recommended, and I mean any book where I walk into work, hold it up to her and go "I finished it! GAH SO GOOD" and get an "I KNOW RIGHT?" in response gets my stamp of approval!

Jun 17, 2019

DNF @ 45%
2018; Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Canada
(Review Not on Blog)

What a lovely cover and engaging synopsis...but reading this was a bit, not so lovely. The book dragged a lot with the plot. I found myself putting the book down a lot and not going back to it...I actually took a month break after trying for a month to make it to 30% I was going to torture myself to finish it as I saw several great reviews. I looked at the lower reviews and saw that there were people who were having the same problems as me. I knew if I continued it would have just been a bigger disappointment. The first part does eventually set up a story line, but many said that nothing was resolved and left a cliffhanger. I think that with series you can have an arc but there should be some solution to something in each book.

***I received an eARC from EDELWEISS***

PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 06, 2019

I'm going to be up front here and say that the star off is for a mystery novel that doesn't solve the mystery! I don't like that this wasn't done in one installment. That said, I'm already tucked well into the second book, if that tells you how I felt about all the other elements.

I love that this is a traditional murder mystery set in a modern YA world. Johnson ticks all the current YA boxes: culturally diverse? Check. LGBTQ+? Check. Differently-abled? Check. Mental health discussion? Check. But she hits all these points without waving big flags that say "see! I've got it all in here," rather it flows naturally and some of these characters are background while others are primary. And Johnson is witty! This novel is darkly humorous.

Stevie has been admitted to Ellingham Academy, a chichi two-year high school in the mountains of Vermont that admits students based on their passion for a particular subject--for Stevie, the subject is the kidnapping and murder mystery that have haunted the school since its inaugural year. As Stevie learns more about the original case, she is drawn into a new case that may or may not have been an accidental death.

The school is suitably full of hidden doors and passageways to please any fan of Harry Potter and Johnson puts together a school that many students may wish existed in real life (minus the murders). The atmosphere, pacing and clues would make Agatha Christie proud, while the witty writing and characterization should please most fans of YA, heck, most fans of clever writing.

RDPL_Teens Feb 11, 2019

I'm not a big series reader and this is the first book by Maureen Johnson that I have read, but this was a great YA murder mystery and I am excited to read the second book in the trilogy!

Young and intellectual Stevie decides to break free from her oppressively conservative parental units by enrolling at a prestigious and remote school with hopes of solving the 80-year old mystery surrounding the wife and child of the schools wealthy/famous founder.

While busting out mad detecting skills and making new inroads in this cold case Stevie also tackles the every day trials and tribulations of being a teen at a new school - making friends, navigating classes, and discerning the difference between attraction and annoyance.

Excellent read for both youth and adults! I'll definitely be looking for more titles by Johnson too.

Jan 12, 2019

Very well done mystery has elements of Agatha Christie while still remaining a modern mystery. I really loved Stevie and being inside of her world and slowly putting together the pieces as some of the mystery fell into place.

ArapahoeKayla Dec 20, 2018

An irresistible mystery that pulls you in from the start. A mix of modern and historical plots, and complex twisty characters will have you trying to put the clues together as you follow along with this young new Holmes-like heroine.

ArapahoeKati Dec 03, 2018

If you like true crime, riddles, boarding schools and dual storylines, what are you waiting for? Pick this up! First in a(n expected) trilogy.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Oct 16, 2018

Great teen mystery that ends on a cliff hanger. While I wish the story stood on it's own better, this one has lots of great layers of representation and a great boarding school setting that will appeal to teen readers!

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