Epic Reads Investigates: The Many Mysteries of ‘Truly Devious’


Epic Reads Investigates: The Many Mysteries of ‘Truly Devious’

Truly Devious Recap: Banner

Riddles, riddles, on the wall, Team Epic Reads tries to solve them all…

Gather ’round Epic Readers, because today we’re going to try solving a murder! Well, multiple murders. And a kidnapping. That’s right, we are deep-diving into the world of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series. The second book in this boarding school murder mystery, The Vanishing Stair, was released recently, so we decided it was the perfect time to try our hand at a Truly Devious recap. In the name of sleuthing, we put our thinking caps on, got out our murder board, and grew mustaches!

If you haven’t dove into this mystery yet, here’s what you need to know: Ellingham Academy is an elite school for talented students, but also the site of a nearly-century old murder and kidnapping of the original proprietor’s wife and daughter. That makes it the perfect place for crime solving aficionado Stevie Bell. But as she sets out to solve this unsolvable crime, the school is rocked by another murder. And thus, our video begins…


Epic Reads Investigates | Truly Devious Recap


About Truly Devious

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.

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.


About The Vanishing Stair

The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy.

But then her classmate was murdered, and her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be back with her friends, and solve the Truly Devious case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, and who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son.

But larger issues are at play. Where did the murderer hide? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair? The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present.

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