Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Before I started reading Truly Devious, I asked Twitter for a specific kind of book.

While books about private/boarding schools may seem plentiful to some, the one that I’m looking for has some type of essence to it. I think The Secret History captured it the most, even though I didn’t love the story with my whole heart. If We Were Villains was almost there, although I remember being a little disappointed.

But when quite a few people suggested Truly Devious, I gave it a go, despite the synopsis feeling a little younger than what I was looking for.

However, I happily realised that Truly Devious was bringing something more than that eerie, snobby privileged ‘rich kids doing bad things’ plot that I enjoy. It was humanising true crime.

truly devious

True crime plays a big part in Truly Devious. Our main character, Stevie Bell, is obsessed with the mysterious criminal history of her new school. Plus she’s a pretty good investigator. But this story took a very interesting direction which didn’t stray too far from the classic ‘whodunnit?’, but also explored what a lot of crime books don’t.


While Stevie Bell is uncovering the mystery of Ellingham Academy, one of her fellow students is murdered, revealing puzzles that resemble the murderer all those years ago. And while Stevie delves into this mystery too, she and her classmates experience and discuss grief. A thing that a lot of murder mystery novels gloss over.

While it is a ‘mystery’ how their classmate died, they still died, and it hits everyone hard. Especially since these kids are between 17-18 and have probably never experienced grief like this before. And that bled into the school’s unsolved mystery.

The people who died, the people who grieved, they were all real people.

They weren’t just names and motives on a true crime podcast, and it was nice to read about in an age that likes to dissect murder mysteries and forget that these were real people experiencing horrific things (so stop romanticising serial killers, yeah?)

I’m pretty sure the sequel comes out soon, and Truly Devious ended on quite a big cliffhanger. So, at least my wait hasn’t been long. I feel sorry for those who have been in the limbo between book one and two.

Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: January 2018



  1. inareadingworld

    March 2, 2019 at 1:40 am

    This book sounds really good! It would be perfect timing for me to pick it up soon before the next one comes out. Great review 🙂

  2. tasya @ the literary huntress

    March 2, 2019 at 5:24 am

    Great review, Hollie! I’ve been hearing great things about this book and the author’s other books in general, so I’m excited to read this one! I agree, grief is a thing that is really important but often glosses over in favor of the ongoing mystery. I can’t remember reading mystery books where the characters actually grieved, instead of jumping back into solving or using the grief to solve the mystery and then the story ends there. I can’t wait to read this!

  3. jamishelves

    March 2, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Great review!! I loved this book and I’m glad you did too. I agree there was way more to this book than I was expecting. I thought it’d just be a mystery but I liked it much more then that and I think it brought a lot to the table. I need to read book two still but I’m so excited for it

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