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 * Lincoln Award Nominee * 2020-2021 South Carolina Book Awards Nominee * 2020 Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award Winner
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Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.
But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.
Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.
But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.
* Cosmopolitan Best YA Books of 2021 * People Magazine Best Books of Summer 2021*
In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel in the Truly Devious series, there are more twists and turns than Stevie Bell can imagine. No answer is given freely, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.
The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy. But then her classmate was murdered, and her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they say. She must move past this obsession with crime.
Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be back with her friends, and solve the Truly Devious case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, and the guy who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son.
But larger issues are at play. Where did the murderer hide? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair? The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present.
* Junior Library Guild Selection * Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books of 2019 * Hypable's Best Books of 2019 *
Praise for Book One:
“The Agatha Christie-like ecosystem pairs with lacerating contemporary wit, and alternating past and present scenes makes for a multilayered, modern detective story.” —New York Times Book Review
“Remember the first time reading Harry Potter and knowing it was special? There’s that same sense of magic in the introduction of teen Sherlock-in-training Stevie Bell.” —USA Today (four stars)
“Be still, my Agatha-Christie-loving beating heart.” —Bustle