by Maureen Johnson
Aspiring sleuth Stevie Bell has just started her junior year at Ellingham Academy--an artsy Vermont enclave for offbeat students founded in the 1930s by eccentric philanthropist Albert Ellingham--when disaster strikes. One of her new classmates dies under mysterious circumstances in one of the campus's hidden tunnels. The event uncannily evokes a tragedy that took place eighty years earlier when Ellingham's wife and daughter disappeared. While the bodies of his wife and of an unlucky student were discovered later, his daughter was never found. The only clue is a cryptic riddle signed "Truly, Devious." Stevie, an armchair expert in the Ellingham murder, now has two cases to crack. But she's distracted from her mission by her ongoing battle with clinical anxiety and a blossoming attraction to her brooding housemate David, who just may be hiding secrets of his own. Told in alternating chapters that chronicle both Ellingham's past ordeal and Stevie's current detecting, Johnson's finely tuned plot effectively employs classical mystery tropes while maintaining a thoroughly modern sensibility. Stevie's quirky, ragtag bunch of new friends crosses sexuality and class lines, providing teen readers with a wealth of characters to connect with. And if the pacing is a bit leisurely, it's only because Johnson is setting the stage for a planned trilogy. jennifer hubert swan.
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2018)
Katherine Tegen Books. January 16, 2018. 420 pages. HS.
Book two: The Vanishing Stair, January 22, 2019
Book three: The Hand on the Wall, January 21, 2020
Book summary from Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018).