Truly Devious

Truly Devious #1

Maureen Johnson

fiction contemporary mystery thriller young adult
mysterious fast-paced

432 pages | first published 2018

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.

What the community thinks

summary of 3615 ratings (see reviews)

Content warnings

Expand filter menu View warnings


mysterious 96%
adventurous 66%
tense 34%
dark 29%
funny 19%
lighthearted 11%
emotional 7%
challenging 5%
reflective 1%
relaxing 1%
sad 1%
hopeful 0%
informative 0%
inspiring 0%


medium 47%
fast 44%
slow 7%

Plot- or character-driven?

A mix: 50% | Plot: 50%

Strong character development?

Yes: 37% | No: 35% | It's complicated: 20% | N/A: 6%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 62% | It's complicated: 19% | No: 15% | N/A: 2%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 73% | No: 15% | It's complicated: 11% | N/A: 0%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 67% | No: 17% | It's complicated: 12% | N/A: 2%

Average rating