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 review is heavily delayed, given that I read and enjoyed this book at the beginning of the year. The sequel, and final installment in the trilogy, is about to come out however…and I need to be ready. I also buddy-read this with Liz from This is Lit! (Check her podcast out here.)
To be honest, I was skeptical when I first read Truly Devious, the first novel in this mysterious trilogy, but I powered through and ultimately had a good time. The Vanishing Stair was a different story- I was sucked into this from the beginning. Vanishing Stair is a lot like its predecessor in many ways, but it also had a sense of urgency and action that I felt the first one lacked. This time around there was no slowing down.
My favorite thing about these books has always been their protagonist, Stevie. Her practical outlook on life, her struggles with her anxiety disorder, as well as her all-too-common variety of teen problems, have always come off as very relatable to me at their core. While the books might sometimes be over-the-top, or just over-the-top enough one could argue, Stevie is an anchor for the whole series. Her personality is whole and grounded and I enjoy watching her make decisions and figure out secrets at every turn.
I haven’t connected super deeply with any of the romantic stories in this series, but I honestly don’t think that the book needs it. The Vanishing Stair moves quickly and has detail and action a plenty, there is always something happening. I didn’t get bored, all the way up to the end.
I’m really looking forward to The Hand on the Wall, the finale to this trilogy. I can’t wait to find out who ’Truly Devious’ is and solve the mystery once and for all.
If you are someone who likes a good mystery without the gore or scares, these books are for you. They are eerie and mysterious, confusing and thought-provoking, even sometimes surprising, but its a gentler kind of murder mystery than I am used to. Personally, I think its a strength. This core has connected with so many readers and I whole-heartedly enjoyed my read so far. Check this one out for yourselves!
See you soon, friends! x