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.
This was a surprise! Truly Devious was twisted. I thought it was original and at times it kept me on the edge of my seat.
A girl from Pittsburgh came to Ellingham Academy and she wanted to see a dead body. She got her wish.
Stevie Bell enrolls in Ellingham Academy with one goal, to solve the kidnapping case of Iris and Alice Ellingham.
When the plot got going, it was good. I’ll be honest, there were sections in the middle of the book where everything really slowed down, and it’s why this book doesn’t get the full 5 stars. But the ending? Amazing!
What I loved was that this truly was a mystery to me. I didn’t know who was going to die, I didn’t know the murderer, I didn’t know if the crime from the 1930s and the crime today were connected. And honesty, I still don’t know the answer to most of these. This book was literally filled with twists.
I also liked how the story was told. Throughout the book we would get some flashback chapters to 1936 and see how the investigation was being handled and how characters reacted to new of the kidnappings and ransom. While this brought a fresh perspective to the story, these chapters never overwhelmed the present timeline or slowed down the plot, which I was thankful for. It was written in a way where you got to see 2 mysteries unfolding simultaneously.
Games are not fun when you don’t know you’re playing.
I’ve seen some mixed reviews on Stevie, our MC. But I loved her! She was confident and self-aware. I also loved her knowledge and passion for true crime.
Then we have the supporting characters, who really brought a lot to the story. First we have Janelle, Stevie’s new friend at Ellingham. She is a black girl who’s trying to make it into the STEM field. I kind of wish we’d seen more of her in the second half of the story. Next we have Nate, another friends of Stevie’s who’s apathetic and adorable, and wrote a fantasy novel once upon a time but is now struggling with writers block. Lastly, there’s David, a liar and flirt, and Stevie’s maybe love interest.
“The fact is,” he said,“I liked you from the first moment I saw you, when you looked like you wanted to punch me in the face for just being alive.”
Let me finish this review by saying thank goodness all the books are out already, because waiting for the next book with that cliffhanger would have been terrible. On to the next book!