Students attend the prestigious Ellingham Academy for myriad reasons, but all are geniuses, here to study that about which they’re most passionate.
Stephanie “Stevie” Bell studies crime, and there’s no better place to do this than where, in 1936, one of the nation’s most notorious crimes occurred. The wife and daughter of millionaire and school founder Albert Ellingham went missing. The only clue was a malicious, Dorothy Parker–style rhyme signed “Truly, Devious.” Although an innocent man was convicted of the kidnappings and the murder of Mrs. Ellingham (their daughter was never found), the crime was never truly solved. Stevie is obsessed with getting to the bottom of this decades-old case, and the crimes are made all the more real when one of her housemates is murdered and someone who calls themselves “Truly Devious” peremptorily claims responsibility. There’s a comfortable and realistic diversity among the characters. Stevie’s STEM genius friend Janelle is a “girl of color” and a lesbian. A white female teacher has a shaved head and unshaven legs, and minor characters include a Muslim girl and an (assumed-white) girl in a wheelchair. Stevie herself is white and struggles with depression and anxiety, illnesses that have no easy answers but which are represented here with truth and compassion. The story raises more questions than answers, leaving readers hoping Johnson has another entry up her clever sleeves.
A classic mystery that would make Dame Agatha proud. (Mystery. 14-18)