Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #1)

Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #1)Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books in January 2018
Format: ebook
Source: Library
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three-half-stars

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.

Truly Devious has been on my want to read list for months. Once the library told me it was available, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to what I had hoped.

With mystery novels, I tend to enjoy the books that are more fast paced with a lot of action. Truly Devious, on the other hand, suffered from what I like to call “first book syndrome.” (I believe it’s supposed to be part of a trilogy.) The first half or so of the book felt very slow, and it was all because it was all about setting the scene. It kept switching back and forth between present day Ellingham Academy with Stevie Bell, our protagonist, and back in time to the night when Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped. I understand that is the big case Stevie hopes to crack, but it just moved slow. The action didn’t pick up until Stevie started working on a film project about the Ellingham kidnapping with her classmates. View Spoiler »

To be honest, despite all of the world building, I didn’t connect well with the characters. All of them are a bit odd. I guess that makes sense considering they’re in a school for geniuses, and if they’re modeling Big Bang Theory, geniuses are supposed to be odd and difficult to get to know. While I got a general sense of the type of person each character was like, I don’t feel like I got to know any of them on a personal level. However, like the pacing of the book, I did believe things got better in the second half of the book.

While I was a bit disappointed with Truly Devious, I’m actually quite excited for the next book to release next year. Truly Devious ended with a huge twist, which I think will help develop the characters. If the story progresses as it has, I’m sure the second book will be much better and hopefully won’t be as slow.

Have you read Truly Devious? What were your thoughts on it? Do you agree or disagree with my take? Let me know in the comments!

three-half-stars

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