In 1936, industrialist and founder of Ellingham Academy, Albert Ellingham received a threatening letter signed Truly Devious. His daughter and wife were kidnapped, never to be seen again and a student went missing. The case was never solved. Stevie wants to solve it, and the best place to do that is within the school. Good thing she just got accepted.
Cold case at a mysterious boarding school for gifted teens? Yes please! It took me a while to warm to Truly Devious because the story in the past in told in a slightly detached way but I loved all the characters from the modern portion, which is the main part of the book.
None had her passion. You know when you’re the top fan—the one who knows the words and feels the gaps and senses the disruptions. You know when you are the one who gets it.
The kids at Ellingham all have a passion, they might not be gifted in the obvious sense, but their drive is what secures them a place at the school. It’s intended to let them explore the subject they most want to learn about, although they still do have some core lessons. Stevie loves true crime and she is obsessed with the cold case surrounding the school, that’s what gets her in.
I was interested in this when it first came out but was put off by seeing people saying the mystery wasn’t solved. There are several mysteries in the book, and it did end with one of those being revealed. I am fine with the main mystery being an arc over the whole series, it would have been weird for Stevie to solve it straight away when that is her whole reason for being at the school!
Because I dragged my feet for so long, I had zero wait for the next books and have already binge-read them. Stevie’s parents work for a right-wing senator, whose views she definitely does not share. I don’t feel like books often explore the idea of kids who don’t share their parents’ politics and how difficult that can be. That starts in the first book and continues in The Vanishing Stair.
Home. Yes. This was home. This home welcomed her as she was, which was unusual in her experience. It was also, and more familiarly, the place where she had to tell the biggest lies.
I won’t go much into the plots of the rest of the trilogy, Stevie continues to unearth small clues to what happened in the thirties. The portions told from the past talk about the students, the Ellinghams and their guests, letting you know what happened before Stevie works it out, or in some cases left a mystery. And more things go wrong in the present day, adding more mysteries to be solved!
I have mixed feelings about David, there are many times it doesn’t feel like a healthy relationship, but they can both understand each other on some things, and their situation is difficult. I did raise an eyebrow in The Hand on the Wall at how easy something they did was. Turns out not everyone keeps back-ups though.
On all crime shows, it’s usually the third person the cops interview. It’s the one you sort of think it is. In life, the murderer is anyone.
As you know I love boarding school settings, and I liked this big house with its secret passages and tunnels, with secrets left behind to be discovered. Whilst the three currently published books make up a complete trilogy, there is a standalone book out this year with a new mystery for Stevie to solve, so I’m looking forward to that. It was just a fun thing to binge read when my brain didn’t want anything too heavy.
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