Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Publication Date: January 16th, 2018
Length: 416 pages
Description from Goodreads:
Author Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.
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.
After reading the latest Cormoran Strike novel, I’ve been in a mystery reading mood. I’ve been hearing great things about this book, so I decided to give it a read.
I loved all of the characters in this book. From their introductions, every student was very unique and had very distinguishable traits and personalities. The side characters were all pretty diverse too, which I loved.
The main character definitely feels like a typical YA main character, but I don’t necessarily find that to be a bad thing. I found her to be really relatable even though I’m not a teen myself.
I also really loved the setting and the mystery. A secluded school in the woods in Vermont sounds like a dream, so it was great getting to experience the story there. Johnson did a really great job of laying out the location and as the reader, you get a real sense for what it’s like at this school.
I also really liked how the story switched back and forth between the past and present, and the fact that there were two mysteries unfolding. I found both timelines to be very interesting, and neither detracted from the other.
The only problem I had with this book was the pacing. It felt like not much happens in the latter half of the middle third of this book. We don’t even really get much payoff of the mystery until the last 10% of the book, so the ending felt a bit rushed. It also kind of ends on a cliffhanger, which was kind of frustrating. Like, I’m excited for the next book and will read it because I liked the characters, but it feels like the mystery wasn’t really solved, so the story doesn’t really feel complete. It just kind of feels like we now have more questions than answers.
All in all, I think this was a really good YA mystery. I’m excited to see what happens in the rest of the series.