July/August 2021 Kids Indie Next List
“Maureen Johnson knows how to write a mystery novel like no other. She makes the characters feel funny, and nuanced, with real problems and whose actions have real consequences. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book! I’d read any book with Stevie Bell in it!”
— Emily Gilbow, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
After solving the case of Truly Devious, Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson, now available in paperback.
Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.
But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.
Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.
But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.
* Cosmopolitan Best YA Books of 2021 * People Magazine Best Books of Summer 2021*
About the Author
Maureen Johnson is the bestselling author of several novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, the Truly Devious series, the Suite Scarlett series, and the Shades of London series. She has also written collaborative works such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle and The Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. Maureen lives in New York and online on Twitter @maureenjohnson or at www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com.
"Johnson’s hallmark charming humor and lovable characters provide a robust foundation for another cracking mystery, this time ingeniously working with summer camp and locked room mystery tropes. Stevie’s relationship with her lifelong anxiety is particularly well portrayed. A fantastic stand-alone mystery companion revisits a much-loved sleuth." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"While fans of Johnson's Truly Devious trilogy (and there are many) will undoubtedly be eager for this spinoff, Stevie's summertime exploit both stands alone and adds compelling layers to the established characters—an impressive feat. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Johnson builds on the success of her NYT-bestselling Truly Devious series with this standalone spinoff that blends mystery and horror conventions in a summer-camp setting—perfectly timed for summertime campfires." — Booklist (starred review)
"Johnson gleefully takes a stab at the slasher movie trope by sending her teen detective on a cold case at a summer camp. This satisfying standalone mystery will delight fans of teen horror flicks and true-crime documentaries, as well as those who prefer their mysteries wrapped up after one volume. Here’s hoping this highly entertaining volume isn’t the last we hear from Stevie Bell." — Horn Book Magazine
“The Box in the Woods is a gripping and complex mystery bolstered by its commentary on the popular fascination with true crime—and its empathetic reminder to consider the perspectives of those whom such crimes leave behind.” — BookPage
"Sardonic sleuth Stevie Bell returns in this engaging stand-alone sleepaway camp thriller, a follow-up to Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy. Johnson’s kinetic descriptions join towering cliffhangers as chapters switch between 1978 and the present day, and Stevie’s search turns deadly. Johnson includes a winning crew of returning characters . . . the friend group sustains entertaining rapport as Stevie navigates personal and public histories." — Publishers Weekly
"It’s always a pleasure to watch smart, resourceful Stevie piece together a puzzle. Mystery fans will relish this standalone novel in the 'Truly Devious' universe."
— School Library Journal
“The Box in the Woods is an utterly addictive read that adds a wonderful new dimension to the world of Truly Devious and yet another fiendish twist in Stevie’s story." — The Nerd Daily
"The Box in the Woods is an excellent, cleverly braided, no punches pulled story leavened with humor. It’s worth reading for the great rapport between the fully-fleshed characters of Stevie, queer black crafts-mad Janelle, and the sardonic uber-nerd Nate alone. A great summer read!” — AuthorLink
"If the beginning of the storyline reads like a Scooby Doo script it’s done in honest homage, and is just as much fun, if admittedly darker and more complex than anything Shaggy and team would have tackled. That there’s also a deep emotional current running through the book as Bell’s finely developed sense of empathy for the friends of the dead is revealed sets the story apart. A challenging and satisfying mystery, this is one you’ll be shaking the sand out of come September." — Mountain Times
Praise for TRULY DEVIOUS: “Be still, my Agatha-Christie-loving beating heart.” — Bustle
“Jumping between past and present, Johnson’s novel is deliciously atmospheric, with a sprawling cast of complex suspects/potential victims, surprising twists, and a dash of romance. As in her Shades of London books, Johnson remains a master at combining jittery tension with sharp, laugh-out-loud observations.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Remember the first time reading Harry Potter and knowing it was something special? There’s that same sense of magic in the introduction of teen Sherlock-in-training Stevie Bell. Parallel mysteries unfold with cleverly written dialogue, page-turning brilliance and a young sleuth just as captivating as Hercule Poirot.” — USA Today (four stars)
“The Agatha Christie-like ecosystem pairs with lacerating contemporary wit, and alternating past and present scenes makes for a multilayered, modern detective story.” — New York Times Book Review
“A suspenseful, attention-grabbing mystery with no clear solution. The versatile Johnson is no stranger to suspense, and this twisty thriller will leave plenty of readers anxious for more.” — Booklist
Praise for THE VANISHING STAIR: “In this second . . . installment, Johnson gives and she takes away: a few major mysteries are satisfying solved, but other long-standing riddles remain tantalizingly indecipherable, and several new ones come into play by the enigmatic end. Readers, hang tight: there’s one more round to come, and if the signs are right, it’ll be to die for.” — Booklist
"Ramps up the intrigue. Throughout this volume, Johnson's compelling would-be Sherlock proves to be as bad at personal relationships as she is adept at solving mysteries. Teen angst soars as Johnson delightfully conjures up more nefarious deeds from the mountain mist." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Take it from the world’s most impatient reader: If the Truly Devious series is basically one long mystery book, The Vanishing Stair is a middle part so enjoyable you won’t even want to skip to the end.” — Entertainment Weekly
“In this second installment of her marvelous Truly Devious series, Maureen Johnson offers thrilling suspense, sly wit, a memorable cast of characters and more pieces of her deliciously intricate puzzle.” — Buffalo News
“Waiting for the next installment of Maureen Johnson’s Agatha Christie-Sherlock Holmes-classic mystery homage series was torture, but The Vanishing Stair is oh so worth it.” — Bustle
Praise for THE HAND ON THE WALL: "The final, riveting chapter of the Truly Devious murder series. Throughout this intricately woven, fast-paced whodunit, Johnson demonstrates how proximity to wealth and power can mold and bend one's behavior, whether with good or—here largely—devious intent. The brainy secondary characters' quirky talents and interests complement Stevie's sleuthing skills; . . . they include diversity in socioeconomic background, mental health challenges, physical disability, and sexual orientation. A richly satisfying, Poirot-like ending for Johnson's inspired and inspiring teen sleuth."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In this hotly anticipated trilogy finale, Johnson pulls out all the stops, filling the thrillingly nimble narrative with classic mystery conventions. A striking foray into an examination of what mysteries can ever truly be solved, and a satisfying send-off for a series that will be missed." — Booklist
“Maureen Johnson brings her delectable ‘Truly Devious’ murder mystery trilogy to a thrilling conclusion, neatly tying together her dueling narrative threads, one set in 1936 and the other in the present day, with an action-packed finale during a blizzard at Ellingham Academy in the mountains of Vermont.” — Buffalo News
"This will be essential reading for the many fans of the first two books. This trilogy ender is fun, satisfying, and a genuine treat for teens and adult mystery fans." — School Library Journal
“Readers will be eager to know the novel’s conclusion but will never want the book to end. Replete with intrigue, thoughtfulness, and depth, The Hand on the Wall is a mystery of the moment and for the ages.” — San Francisco Book Review
"This inclusive, inventive, and vastly entertaining series has been a boon to YA literature. As a layered, complex character who solves crime while also battling anxiety, Stevie Bell reads like the redoubtable love child of Jessica Fletcher and Adrian Monk. There will hopefully be more Stevie Bell mysteries to come." — Horn Book Magazine