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Truly Devious #3

The Hand on the Wall

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Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

369 pages, Hardcover

First published January 21, 2020

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Maureen Johnson

60 books14.9k followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,969 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
May 28, 2022
Here’s the thing: This is not a good mystery.

A good mystery, a truly remarkable one, has not only a question at its core that fascinates and eludes the reader. This series certainly has that, but it’s not the only thing that really makes a mystery book worth writing home about.

The really fun thing, the thing that makes the best works of this genre worth reading, is the solution.

The solution should be the peak of the story, not the letdown. It should be an ohmygod moment, a muttered “holy sh*t” as you frantically turn pages.

This was...not that.

Not even close.

The mysteries themselves were more fun, more interesting, and more impressive than the answers. By a mile.

I stayed up until 3 am reading this, and then I was like “...that’s it? No. It can’t be. Maybe there’s a secret riddle in here where I get more pages. Maybe this is a red herring, and I, the reader, am supposed to solve it. Eureka! That’s it! All I have to do is reread all three books, make a cereal-box model of the school like Gansey, never sleep again, start wearing my dirty hair tied in baby socks to get in the heads of the characters…”

And so on.

The real sleepless night this caused was how much time I feel I wasted on this series.

ALL I WANTED WAS ANSWERS. And I got them...but at what cost? Do I have to dedicate my life to writing fanfiction for this series now, and then break down my brain until I forget this book entirely and convince myself that what I wrote is the real thing? Is that the only way I’ll ever find joy??!


On top of all that, I do not care for this “““David””” character whatsoever. You know that part in the last book where he pays someone to beat him up? In my fanfiction version of this series, I’m going to be the one paying those random, like, skateboarders he encounters or whatever to kick him in the shins. And I’m going to be off to the side yelling, “THIS IS FOR ALL THAT EMOTIONAL ABUSE THAT WAS JUST EXCUSED, FOR SOME REASON, YOU NAKED MOLE RAT.”

Apparently I have more pent up anger about this book than I realized.

In fact, outside of this nice little setting made up of learning and riddles and rich people and sweaters and maple-flavored things, I’m having trouble thinking of much I liked about this at all.



reread updates

i know this book was disappointing to me. i know that.

and yet here i am, rereading it enthusiastically and with high expectations.

i love to fail.

update: i am keeping this same review but dropping the rating half a star for the reason that this whole series would have been SO much better without the flashbacks. those were a snooze and a half.


if i die tonight, it's for one of the following reasons:
1) one of the murderers in this book got to me. (somehow crossed the bounds of fiction.)
2) i passed away from thirst, because i finished my water while reading this but was too scared to get out of bed and get more. (see: real murderers point, above.)

review to come / 3 stars

currently-reading updates




tbr review

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,309 reviews44k followers
February 1, 2023
They say: “Third time is a charm” and when I agree: because third book of the series is the BEST WRITTEN, RIVETING, EXCITING, ENTERTAINING, A GREAT TRIBUTE TO AGATHA CHRISTIE BOOKS!

The weakest thing about Truly Devious series is lack of adorable, likable characters but you slowly get used to their quirkiness, strange antics and their asocial manners. Stevie is adorably weird, introvert, die-hard fan of crime thriller podcasts, cold cases from the past (I’m not talking about younger version of myself. This is Stevie!) and Alice Ellingham’s kidnapping case is her big obsession that slowly gnaws at her. (Yes she cannot take a shower, wearing same clothes every day)

I also loved Nate from the beginning who is also socially disturbed, geek but he wrote a book and made so much money, of course he is my favorite. And asshole David gets disappeared at the nearly end of the second novel. He already earned too many punching me against the face and keep on doing for days points from me! And yes, at this new book, he was still pretentious douchebag and treating Stevie so mean and unfair. But he gets jealous, spying on Hunter and Stevie like a hawk and follow Stevie at everywhere. I wanted to scream at his face: “Make a decision! Do you hate or like her?”

The strongest thing about the book: The mystery behind Alice’s kidnapping and how it reflects the future of Ellingham Academy and the weird murder cases. ( yes, there are three murders now) At the second book Stevie solved the mystery and she thought she found whodunit but guess what: there are so many secret layers and missing pieces of the puzzle. As we resume our reading the results were so surprising and unforeseen!

So now there is snow storm, the school is closed, everybody will be sent to their homes. Of course Stevie doesn’t want to go because leaving Ellingham Academy means she will return back her miserable life and her terrible anxiety attacks. Then a miracle happens, asshole David comes back with stolen tablets from his father’s office to find some dirt against his campaign and he needs help of his friends (let’s say classmates because I’m not sure this cocky boy carries any kind of friendly genes.) and he presents it like a weekend mountain hideout!

Vi: Janelle’s girlfriend intrigued because Vi doesn’t want douchebag David’s evil douchebag father to become their president. Best friend Nate stays because of Stevie. Hunter has nowhere to go and Janelle reluctantly stays because of girlfriend. So yes, they hid in the school to solve the mystery.
They cannot go anywhere and there is a murderer still out there. Oh actually, he or she is actually in the academy with them and guess what….Nooooo, you’re gonna read and learn what happens next.

I had entertaining time. This book was real unputdownable, mysterious, captivating and the better ending of the trilogy. And you know what: I think I’d love to read more adventures of Stevie! Finally I learned to love her and her quirky lovely friends.

I gave first book : 3 stars

Second book was much better: 4 stars

Third book: 4.25 (yes asshole David ate 0.75 points! And poor Stevie has real crush on him!)

Overall: Two mysteries from past and present intertwined impeccably. Fast pacing, enjoyable, Hercule Poirot-ish, riveting YA adult mystery. I highly recommend it to genre fans.

Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
948 reviews2,713 followers
October 6, 2022
Truly devious:- ⭐⭐.15/5 Read review here
Vanishing stair :- ⭐.75/5 Read review here
Hand on wall :- ⭐⭐.5/5

*Spoiler ahead*

So with infinite Sherlock Holmes, 12 Agatha Christie, 1 Nancy drew, 1 shinning, 1 Great Gatsby and 1 titanic reference we have come to the end of this truly stupid and lame series!!

Yeah don't fight me! Okay I am not in mood , my mind committed suicide three times in last three days !!!!

✏ here is a piece of advice to author Next time try and make your characters likeable please, everytime I read about them I want to slap their book right in their faces .

And the very idea of making Charles aka call me Charles the murder of children because he wanted money is just as stupid and lame as the idea of John green writing a good y/a book ( don't attack me , it's my personal opinion)

During that big revelation scene I was 100% sure that once steive will point to Charles and then she will slide her finger to other person because that's how these scenes works right ?

But no.


✏I think the author didn't had any solutions to the mystery so in the end she just mugged up everything and presented us whatever the shit was ready to serve!

And will someone tell me What did Flora took from Iris room?

I guess it was never answered !

And there was a scene where Steive said that Eddie has an uncanny resemblance to David so I was sure like maybe Eddie and Edward king were related?

But no.

When why are you fucking mentioning these points if they are if no use?

✏The mystery of Elligham was good but again the ending of Alice being found dead , no I wanted her to be alive to be someone's grandmother of those children , or something like that. Some big revelation to blow our mind !!!

But again no. Nothing happened?

The revelations were slaps in faces .

✏I can see that releasing a trilogy is a good idea, moneywise, but quality is better than quantity (in my opinion).

So with this yess it's an end to this series and I just came to know yesterday that their is going to be a fourth book too of Stieve solving other case , I guess I am not done with Stieve * jingle* bell by now , I don't want to rot my brain completely!
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,271 reviews2,444 followers
February 6, 2023

Yet another accident happens in Ellingham Academy. A massive storm is also heading towards Vermont. So they decide to evacuate the school. But Stevie chose to stay on the mountain to face the storm to solve the case. Will she able to solve this flummoxing case amid the downright macabre of the past and the present? This book will give you the answer.

What I learned from this book
1) The money-empathy gap
Money is indispensable in everyone's life. It provides food, dress, shelter for the poor, medicines for the sick, and peace of mind for those living paycheck to paycheck. But money also has a negative side to it. Wealth can make some people selfish and stingy. However, the trend is slowly changing nowadays. The wealthy people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are participating in the Giving pledge campaign to change the overall outlook of philanthropy. Stevie, in some way, is an embodiment of the perspective of the newer generation towards money.
“It wasn’t about the money.”

2) Embracing information sharing in the 21st century.
In the 21st century, many people are ready to share anything for gaining attention unabashedly. Privacy has become a blague both online and offline. We can see Maureen Johnson explaining about privacy through one of her characters
"I would rather eat bees than share her tender inner being with anyone else—she didn't even want to share it with herself."

3) A terrible illusion that will make you a puppet.
Anxiety is a terrible illusion that has the propensity to shatter your life. The author mentions anxiety in multiple parts with so much alacrity so that the mental acumen of the readers will be altered positively. The best part of it is that she never sounds sanctimonious at any part of this novel.
"Anxiety, her therapist had told her many times, never killed anyone. It felt like death, but it was an illusion. A terrible illusion that inhabited your body and tried to make it its puppet. It told you nothing mattered because everything was made of fear.

Anxiety does not ask your permission. Anxiety does not come when expected. It's very rude. It barges in at the strangest moments, stopping all activity, focusing everything on itself. It sucks the air out of your lungs and scrambles the world."

My favourite three lines from this book
“Every contact leaves a trace.”

“The wonderful thing about reality is that it is highly flexible. One minute, all is doom; the next, everything is abloom with possibility.”

“Are you trying to make me have an emotion?...Because I've spent my whole life learning how to repress and deflect, and you're kind of ruining my thing"

What could have been better?
The irony of this series is that some of the readers loved the story happening in the present while some liked the one which occurred in the past. But not everyone loved both the stories concurrently. There is a probability that the astute critics will point out the defects in the anachronistic way the author vacillates between two time periods while the supporters will say that both are intertwined in a convincing manner. The ending of this book is good but could have been way much better, and some readers will be disappointed by it.

4/5 There is a chance that you will love this series even if you are someone who abhors YA fiction and scathingly attacks it regularly. It is because of the amazing experience it will give you while you read it. After a promising start and world-building, the author faltered slightly in the second and third books. Still, I will recommend these three books to everyone who loves to read a good mystery.
Profile Image for hyacinth.
63 reviews7 followers
January 22, 2020
maureen could’ve put all these in one book 🤦‍♀️
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
September 24, 2020
im definitely in the minority with my feelings on this conclusion, but after my reaction to ‘the vanishing stair,’ i could see this coming.

this was okay. not the worst, but i didnt do a reread of the other books before picking this up so it took me a while to remember/piece together what was happening. i also dont remember david being such a major douche?! his character really turned me off to pretty much everything he was involved in.

overall, i wasnt overly impressed, nor was i disappointed with this. the conclusion suits the pacing and tone of the other books, but i just think my interest was sort of lost during the wait between the previous book and this one.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for TheYALibrarian.
295 reviews133 followers
January 22, 2020
I was warned The Vanishing Stair ended on a cliffhanger. Did it stop me from finishing it in a few days? NO AND I REGRET NOTHING AND REGRET EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME!!!! FFFFFFFUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Update 1/21/20

Rating 5 Stars

Got to have this for the holiday weekend and wow...what a fucking ride. I didn't want a second of it to end. More review to come I think I just need to go sob in the corner for a while...
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,459 reviews2,407 followers
September 5, 2023
Here's my 5 🌟 parts of the trilogy:
✨The 2nd half of the 1st book
✨The whole of the 2nd book (minus David, of course)
✨The first half of the 3rd book

Well, it's worth binge reading! And it's so interesting and fast paced that you won't take much time reading each book (don't get fooled by the number of pages!).

Why the last one is not a perfect 5 🌟 read for me:
I still couldn't stand David and Stevie together. The romance was so out of place. And I simply couldn't understand why the author tried to force some 5 or 6 chapters in the later half unnecessarily dragging the plot. The mystery is not much of a brainer. It feels like it's been there all along. It failed to blow my mind and hair away.
But somehow it's okay. It's not a big issue when the characters are this lively, the plot is built thick with details and the ending always satisfying with a sense of closure.

Basically, I would have loved it more if the romance was between Nate and...(ok, I won't talk about this. Better write a fanfic or something 🙄)
I just couldn't get enough of Albert Ellington of the 1930s and Nate of the 2010s. One made me lose my mind and the other made me pee laugh.
I wish there were more parts of Nate. In the dragging chapters and the few important chapters where almost every other character was there, Nate was forgotten. It was just not fair.
(My review writing skills have gone nil I can sense it☝️ but a reader has to say what she has to say as she got unnecessarily attached to a few characters)
Stevie, the main character; the true crime fanatic; the compulsive reader; the one with anxiety; the one who made the trilogy possible: I liked her for her undying commitment till the end. Somehow I don't feel anything for her.
(Am I a robot?)
No. It's just that I liked the 4-5 villains in the story much more. They appeared more real and human to me. The side characters were amazing. It's just that the two main characters lacked the X factor for me.

I liked the dirty secrets of the high society of the past as well as the present happening in the books much more than the actual murder mysteries. Overall, it's a very well developed plot.

The humour parts are well done.
Every scene with Nate is worth it!
Another most favourite character has been Janelle. She's smart, realistic, geeky, outspoken and openly in a GL relationship with Vi. She is just dynamic.
I appreciate the moments of our two main characters making stupid decisions together in the last book. I feel like Stevie loses her sense of intuition/decision making whenever she is with David.
(I even thought of rating this book a three star because of a few chapters having them which seemed quite forced and unnecessary.)
But the villains saved the day!

What a ride!
For me, the second book's still the BEST✨
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
February 1, 2023
The Hand on the Wall is the third book in the Truly Devious series. At this point in the story, three people connected to Ellingham Academy have died since our intrepid protagonist, True Crime aficionado, Stevie Bell has arrived.

One, the victim of a potential prank gone wrong, the second, dead by misadventure and the third succumbed to a tragic accident in Burlington. Is that all these deaths are though? Were they accidents and misadventures, or something much more sinister. How about murder?

If you haven't read the earlier books, you may want to avoid the rest of this review. Although I do try very hard not to reveal anything not included in the Publisher's synopsis.

At this point, Stevie Bell knows who Truly Devious is. She's cracked the case. One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time, and she, a high school girl in rural Vermont has figured it out. At least she thinks she has.

It's actually hard for Stevie to concentrate strictly on the decades-old case. Paired with the recent tragic events, it's becoming muddled. Stevie is perplexed. Her gut tells her these three newer deaths are in some way connected to those of the past, but how?

With a storm of epic proportions bearing down on the private school, most students are quickly evacuated for safety. Stevie is right where she wants to be though. She can't leave. Not when the answers she seeks could lie within these walls.

I loved the two previous books and this was definitely a solid continuation to the series.

I really enjoyed filling in some of the blanks regarding the historic-Truly Devious case. In this installment, as with the previous two, you do get alternating perspectives of both the past and present-timelines.

The information gained in this book really helped to make sense of some of the questions I've had regarding that earlier timeline, but where does it go from here?

This left off in a very intriguing place, so I am definitely excited to move forward with the next book.

Stevie has grown so much as a character since the first installment. She's gaining confidence and really coming into her own. I am looking forward to watching her grow even further as she continues working on the many mysteries surrounding her.

Another aspect I really enjoyed about this one was the inclement weather. The storm essentially evacuating most of the unnecessary players from the school was a nice set-up for creating a spooky, claustrophobic-feeling ambiance.

I am planning to continue onto the next book very soon, in order to be caught up just in time for the 5th-book in the series, Nine Liars, to be released next month!
Profile Image for Theresa.
510 reviews1,551 followers
March 14, 2020
How could they mess up this premise this much. How.

This book (and as a result, the series as a whole) is aimless, meandering and lacks any shred of tension or suspense. The mystery is wrapped up in mere minutes based on absolutely nothing and most of it wasn't actually discovered by Stevie but instead revealed to the reader in long and unnecessary flashbacks. Stevie herself then figured it out due to divine intervention or something. I don't know.

The lack of actual content in this series becomes glaringly obvious with the conclusion to the series. I kid you not, the stuff that actually happens could have been condensed down to a single above-average length book and it would have been perfectly fine. The main conflict of the entire series is completely forgotten about for half of this book and replaced with an out of the blue, completely random new conflict that is then immediately resolved again before we return to the actual plot of the books. Only about 5% of this book are spent actually solving the mystery.

The romance between David and Stevie is... genuinely painful to read. I thought they were very cute at the beginning but after their extremely contrived drama in book 2 I was starting to question my initial feelings about them. In this book David spends most of his time being a complete dickhead to Stevie, actively torturing her for a perceived wrong and she just lets him do it. Then all of a sudden, instead of actually discussing their problems and resolving them, they just get back together as if nothing happened. And I'm supposed to just accept that and go all OMG THEY'RE SO CUTE again. Na-ah.

This series just lacks soul . I feel absolutely no connection to any of the characters or any of the events that took place because it felt like the author wasn't telling a story she actually cared all that much about. I wish I had a different experience with this because I really wanted to enjoy this series. Unfortunately, I'd say skip this one entirely and forgot it ever existed. It's just not worth your time or money.
Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,204 followers
July 21, 2020
I’m curling into a ball and dying inside now that this murder mystery is cracked wide open and there is nothing left to solve.

No but for real this book was AMAZING. I did happen to guess whodunit from around the middle, but there were still SO MANY EXTRA THINGS I hadn’t even thought about!! I just really love this series and if you want a cozy, murder mystery that borders on crazy conspiracy with puzzles and history and things, please read this! I begeth of you lol. Definitely a favorite for a long time to come!!
Profile Image for Lia Carstairs.
417 reviews2,318 followers
June 18, 2021
  "My moose," she said in a low voice. "I finally got it. The universe paid me in moose."

omg what kind of ending was that loll I love that😂

Yes, Stevie, you finally got to see a moving branch moose.

I told myself going into this, that I would be paranoid of every single person in this book (minus the original crew).
Yet even doing that, I still didn't expect a certain someone to be behind all of this from the beginning???
I keep this saying, but I really do suck at detective work.

Stevie is the real deal here. Imagine having the guts to confront someone who may be a murderer of countless victims.

cant relate

And I really don't like David. Like from the first book he annoyed me and now after reading this.....well, my opinion hasn't changed.💀

Je n'aime pas David.

Honestly though, this 3-book case was really amazing. Who knew that such tiny events could lead up to something so huge???

That being said, to be honest, I was more interested in the past events then the present. Towards the end is when all the big reveals happened which is when I got really hooked, but the mystery surrounding Alice and the kidnappers of her and her mom got me super absorbed with how things would unfold.

Oh and Nate forever remains my one and only favourite character in this series. Stevie, Janelle, ad Vi were really likable too, but nobody, and I mean nobody can top Nate🥺

I did not and will never like the romantic relationship between David and Stevie. To be honest, I don't even think this series needed any romance or anything. David could've stayed as the annoying and jerkish friend he was, although he did redeem himself a little at the end...but I still don't like him.

My favourite parts of course included Nate, although he didn't appear that much throughout the novel *sobbing* omg but I loved this scene:

“Fun fact," Stevie said, trying to lighten the mood in the vast, gloomy space. "This fireplace? Henry the Eighth had one just like it, in Hampton Court. Albert Ellingham had an exact copy made."
"Fun fact," Nate replied, "Henry the Eighth killed two of his wives. Who wants a murderer's fireplace?"
"I'm not sure, but that's the name of my new game show.”

Another thing I loved was the way Maureen Johnson put in anxiety. Stevie had anxiety that would come out randomly, but she still didn't let that stop her from solving a murder case or define who she was. The anxiety rep was done so well this whole series. I love Stevie so much.😌

First thing that shocked me was that Alice's father was GEORGE MARSH. The guy who set up this whole case!!!! The guy who caused so much suffering!!!

That's such a cruel twist of fate.

I did not feel bad for him AT ALL when he found out that he'd gotten his own daughter (along with Iris) kidnapped just for money.
Poor Alice for having such a terrible biological father :' (

Oh and ALICE BEING FOUND DEAD??!!! omgg just wow😭
All my theories were totally off since they all involved her being secretly alive all this time, but just really old. I even at one point thought that maybe she's the one behind all the present day murders to get revenge or something.🤷‍♀️ loll I was so wrong.

It was so sad though omg. Alice was only a kid and she had to go through all of that kidnapping and in the end....she dies from Measles in an isolated area with a family she's never known :(

George Marsh, you are a cruel, cruel man. Albert Ellingham should've given you a more painful death than the one you got.

And again, I love how I was literally suspicious of ALMOST EVERYONE (especially the nice ones), yet I completely ignored Call Me Charles thinking he was too nice to have anything to do with these murders.
Turns out that he IS the culprit in the end.
Charles was the behind the scenes guy killing Hayes, Ellie, and Fenton in a way that made it look like an accident but was really him making these 'accidents'.
I really didn't think of him as being an evil mastermind, even though by now I should know otherwise. It's always the nice-looking ones.👀

One more thing before I finish. I absolutely LOVED it when Trump Replica's Edward King's running for president was completely blown apart when David (hey, and he actually did something really useful👍) destroyed all the blackmailing files Edward had over some of the people who supported him. Once that was gone, King was ruined and had to pull out of his campaigning for president. Thank youuu David <33

Now if only something *ahem* similar could happen to a certain person in real life.

for legal purposes, this is a joke

  “The wonderful thing about reality is that it is highly flexible. One minute, all is doom; the next, everything is abloom with possibility.”


Profile Image for Mariah.
1,221 reviews449 followers
January 22, 2020
To quote the best character in this series:

If you are like me and while you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you were kind of bored through most of it: I urge you to pick this up!

First, you get the satisfaction of finishing a series, seeing it through to the end.

Second - this one actually had me on the edge of my seat for more than just the cliffhanger!
Stayed up until 2:30AM to see it through and am now sitting at my work desk at 7:25AM, clutching a cup of coffee for dear life, but not regretting my life choices.
Profile Image for Leonie.
66 reviews40.6k followers
April 3, 2020
I had a lot of fun with this series but it did slowly go downhill with each installment. Ultimately, this should have just been one book, instead of a trilogy.
Profile Image for April.
146 reviews259 followers
March 3, 2020
Wish this series would continue on, but still love how it ended overall.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
April 25, 2021
People told me to keep reading despite the horrible love interest because it would all be worth it in the end. And I'm not so sure about that.

This trilogy (yes I know there's a sequel but we all know this was intended to be a trilogy that thanks to its success now receives one or multiple sequels) was overall really fun. Great characters, fantastic setting, the promise of mystery and murder in the air. And I got mystery and I got murder. It just...could have been better.

Stupid, unnecessary, boring, unoriginal, off-putting love interest aside, I don't have much to criticise. I think this trilogy mostly lacked suspense. There were a number of crimes and secrets but their revelations were delivered without much bravado or shock effect. There were seldom high stakes and as a result, the thrill was missing. I think that's why I liked the first book in the series best, because most secrets remained secret and were therefore more intriguing than when we found out what was behind them. For example, the message in Stevie's room which appears in the middle of book one plays no role whatsoever and doesn't affect the plot at all until the mystery is solved at the end of the third book. That seems like wasted potential to me. And for a three-book murder-mystery that spans an entire century it lacks plot twists.

That being said, it was entertaining, it was funny (although the moose thing was a bit overdone), it was a light and fast-paced read and I'll definitely pick up the sequel. Maybe it'll pack more punches when the story isn't spread over several books.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Ari.
848 reviews186 followers
February 3, 2020
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"But that's what clues are.
Clues are junk. They're things that fly off the car
when it gets into an accident.
Murder is messy, and you have to use garbage to figure out
what's going on."

I was nineteen-years-old when I read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None for the first time, and I am eternally grateful to my uncle for suggesting it to me. Since then, I recommend it to everyone who's a book lover. I get mixed responses on that recommendation: “But I don't like mystery.” Read And Then There Were None. Trust me. “The book was published so long ago, is it even any good?” Read it (Also, why does the book's age matter?) “Ugh, a book about people stuck in a house? Does anything even happen?” What doesn't happen in that house! Read it and find out.

No matter the argument, the novel is still worth the reader's time. Even if it's just to experience the author's talent.

The Truly Devious trilogy brought to mind all of the cozy, warm, indulgent vibes that reading Christie's masterpiece gave me years ago. Coming to the end of The Hand on the Wall was bittersweet.

Stevie Bell has joined the ranks of my favorite fictional characters. Stevie, with her anxiety, and her obsession with mysteries and crime, and her ability to just zone the world out while she works a whodunit problem in her head. She led this story so well, and seeing her during the last few chapters of The Hand on the Wall, among the others in that Great House, personifying her own version of the incredible Hercule Poirot to bring forth the culprit and present her case just made me...proud.

Maureen Johnson's subtle little way of bringing together ten people and sticking them into a house in the middle of a blizzard while a murderer roamed free and they're cut off from everyone else outside of the school was the ideal ode to a classic.

From the get-go, we've wanted to know what happened to Alice Ellingham. That has been everyone's goal—both those in-story and the readers'. I wasn't surprised to find out what Alice's outcome really was, though it was still heartbreaking. George Marsh's punishment did not come in the form of Albert and what he did to the two of them on that boat. Marsh's punishment was in finding his own daughter.

There is so much sneaking, so many lies, so much weaving to get through so that one finds the truth. But Johnson did a good job of slowly untangling the web for us. That's why mysteries are so much fun: you start at the confounding problem laid out before you, and little by little work your way back to the beginning, learning all the facts as you go.

My only complaint from these novels, including the last, is that the pacing is now and again off. Something detracts from the main story that leaves you thinking “Was that really necessary?” In this one, it was the whole debacle with King. It's a nice addition to the overall plot, and it ties up things with at least one character (David, in this case) but it makes you go over this hiccup mid-storytelling that interrupts the otherwise smooth flow. It wrapped up well in the end, but the intrusion of it was not well-placed.

Characters are exceptional—I wish I would've had a Nate and Janelle in my life at Stevie's age—the reveal of our modern-day murderer was incredibly satisfying to find (although ever so slightly anti-climatic, again, I feel that this was due to pacing), and the setting... In a story like this, setting is everything. Ellingham Academy with its twists and turns, its history, and how far away from the rest of the world it is, could not have been a better choice. It's a playground for a riddle of this caliber.

I'm going to miss these books, but it was well worth the wait to come to a close in this story.
Profile Image for jv poore.
616 reviews215 followers
February 25, 2020
Somewhat sad that Stevie has finally solved the case of the century, I really enjoyed the Truly Devious trilogy. The Hand on the Wall wraps things up...not "nicely" but pretty much what a Maureen Johnson fan expects: no disappointments.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,109 reviews6,574 followers
January 31, 2020
1.) Truly Devious ★★★★★
2.) The Vanishing Stair ★★★★.5
3.) The Hand on the Wall ★★★★.75


Profile Image for kelly ♥.
307 reviews64 followers
September 3, 2020
2020...... i could be dead by then stevie will have to solve MY murder


3/09/2020: 3.5 rounded to 4 (WHEN will goodreads let us have half stars??!!!!!!)

a solid ending to this trilogy, even if i a) didn’t really remember anything from before and b) had it figured out about halfway through.
Profile Image for Angela Staudt.
398 reviews108 followers
March 7, 2020
Now that is how you end a series. I mean honestly each book got better and the number of reveals in this last book still has me stunned. I wish this story didn’t have to end, I undeniably love Ellingham Academy and all of the characters. The mystery was spectacular and I had absolutely no idea whatsoever throughout the whole book who the culprit was.

If I had to describe The Hand on the Wall I would use riveting, amazing, entertaining, a wild ride, and a masterpiece. At the end of The Vanishing Stair we are left with Stevie somewhat solving the Ellingham murder case. Wrong. The amount of detail and layers this mystery has is amazing, not to mention the 1936 murder and the murders that are happening present day intertwine is mind blowing. I can���t express to you how utterly shocked I am at how much was revealed and the fact that I had no idea about any of it. In the final installment we follow Stevie at Ellingham, but during a huge blizzard that has the school evacuated. Of course, Stevie stays with Nate, David, Vi, Janelle, and some of the school professors. It’s honestly a bit creepy knowing all of this is going on when the power is out, there is literally a blizzard dropping feet of snow, and a murderer could potentially be on the loose.

One of the reasons I love this book so much is because of Stevie and her friends. Stevie is weird, but in a good way, quirky, and loves her crimes and mysteries. Even though everyone around her thinks she is a bit delusional for trying to solve this case, she never gives up. She is such a relatable character and I mean I love how peculiar and strange all the other characters are. “Stevie would rather eat bees than share her tender inner being with anyone else – she didn’t even want to share it with herself.” I mean that not only made me laugh, but I completely agree with Stevie and I just love her.

The biggest part of this is obviously the mystery, and still I’m sitting here trying to process the ending. It was just such a mind shocker that I’m still processing everything. This series has one of the best who-dun-it aspects. Thank you, Maureen Johnson, for writing such a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Sarah (thegirltheycalljones).
436 reviews290 followers
February 4, 2020
Eeeeeerr. Well, I can't say I'm surprised by my general feelings toward this last book.
But you never know, right? Sometimes, magic happens?
Not here though, but that doesn't make it a bad book.
2,5 stars : 4 stars for the addictive whodunnit, 2 for the characters in general, 1 for David.

I loved the Ellingham case. The "case of the century" really was captivating, from the prologue of book 1 introducing Dottie Epstein to discovering about all the protagonists of this era, like Leo and Flora, and George, Iris and Albert. I could have stayed there for quite some time without ever being bored.
Knowing more about the opening of this peculiar school would have been a delight!

I loved the place. All these statues, the secret passages, the dome in the center of the lake, Albert's riddles and games... what a potential - and not wasted at all, at least in the "past" chapters! What a mesmerising place!

I loved Francis and Eddy (Eddie?). I could have read about them for hours... They can sound a bit cliché but the author wrote their chapters very well, imo. It had a real ambiance, and by giving us little she made me want more.

I loved that despite knowing I'll be disappointed by the end, I couldn't stop reading for the most part of the book. It's a real page-turner. I read it like some may watch Gossip Girl : it's dubious quality but it's very addictive!

My real problem is the "present" chapters : all the characters except Stevie, Larry and Nate either bored me to death (Janelle, Vi, Hunter, and I could go on) or annoyed me to no end (hello David, most of the teachers, Ellie, Germaine...).
And, I mean, Larry and Nate are barely there so that let only Stevie to root for...

I stand by what I said about David in my reviews of the previous two books : he's a douche, and the author was probably aiming at Tortured Sexy Genius Asshole but what we got was Total Asshole. It's the biggest failure at a Love Interest I've seen for a looong time.
The way he acts most of the time would normally cause someone saying "who the fuck do you think you are?" or "shut the fuck up" or you know, many punches in his sorry face, but no. It's David, he's an asshole, everybody thinks it's okay, and that it's kinda hot.
It shoulda been, I see the intentions, but it didn't work at all for me.

Also, the many different romances, while being on the side and not central to the plot, weren't needed. They're the weak part of the series for me, they add nothing except needed diversity - but plot-wise and even character-wise, they fall flat.
This book was a very good mystery / whodunnit, those parts were very well written, the setting was awesome, and the pacing mastered.
All these teenage dramas and over-the-top characters went in the way of a great, addictive plot led by a modern and peculiar Nancy Drew.
Quick and easy read, enjoyable but with limits that I'm not willing to meet in the future because hating some characters so much is exhausting.
Profile Image for Maryam.
270 reviews164 followers
January 25, 2020
“𝙄𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙪𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙨, 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙙𝙞𝙙 𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙤𝙛 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙢𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙮.”

For once in my bookworm life I read a book directly after it was released and I’m glad I did because I loved The Hand on the Wall!
I literally ate it up and could not put it down. It’s highly enjoyable, mysterious and captivating and we finally got the answers! Definitely my favorite out of the trilogy.

In Truly Devious I struggled with liking the characters, especially the main character, Stevie. But throughout the trilogy I’d gotten used to their quirky and strange personalities and in this book I liked them so much. Stevie is not a sweet, fun character; she’s interested in crime and the big Ellingham case so she came off as a bit..detached. But I think her personality matched the storyline and her purpose in it so perfectly😍
Though one character I didn’t like is David. He was such an asshole to Stevie and I didn’t want her to have a crush on him. Though he kind of redeemed himself at the end.

The best thing about these books is the mystery; the Ellingham case. And I saw it so clearly in this book because everything started to come together and make sense. I started connecting things that happened in the previous books with what was revealed in this one and the puzzle pieces started to find each other. So entertaining. Maureen’s ability to connect the past as in the Ellingham case in the past and Stevie trying to solve it at Ellingham Academy in the present was so good and on point.

I’m happy with all the revelations that we got and how the trilogy came to an end. In some mystery novels, the ending (where things would normally be revealed) often came off as cramped and like a race to the end but in this one the pace in which everything started to come together was great. I couldn’t see this trilogy ending in any other way..❤️

Order of the books how I liked them:
The Hand on the Wall: ✩✩✩✩
Truly Devious: ✩✩✩✩
The Vanishing Stair: ✩✩✩
Profile Image for :).
137 reviews182 followers
December 28, 2020
4 stars

trigger warnings:
drugs, drinking, alcoholism, violence, death, anxiety, panic attacks

this was definitely the best one in the series!!! the characters were great, the mystery was captivating, and the reveal was shocking. i am still not a huge fan of the romance, but the rest of the book was amazing. i have a lot more to say, so i will write a real review eventually, but for now, enjoy these quotes by the love of my life and the best character in this book, nathanial fisher:

"i am out of ideas and need to conserve my energy so i can freak out more effectively."

"i got nowhere to be. might as well. whats a few years in federal prison?"

"im trying to figure out if this is the stupidest thing ive ever done... i dont think it is, and that worries me."

"i hate this. im leaving."

"this is like being on one of those trips to mount everest. you know, the ones with the ten percent death rate and half the landmarks are frozen bodies."


"are you trying to make me have an emotion? because ive spent my whole life learning how to repress and deflect and youre kinda ruining my thing."

nate is my spirt animal.

also i lied im probably not going to write a real review to this because thats a lot of work. you can go read my reviews for the other two books in this trilogy here and here.

happy holidays everyone!

my reviews for:
book one: truly devious
book two: the vanishing stair
book three: the hand on the wall
Profile Image for Kassidy.
340 reviews11k followers
May 31, 2020

I really enjoyed listening to this on audiobook, the atmosphere came to life. This one is more fast-paced than the others in the series, but at times it felt directionless. I also did not like where the romance went..
I still love this trilogy overall!
Profile Image for abigailscupoftea.
156 reviews1,899 followers
January 3, 2023
what a fantastic finale to the truly devious trilogy! i was definitely smiling at that last line. i’m so glad i read this in january because this was the perfect cozy winter mystery. as always, i loved the academic setting, the quirky cast of characters (nate was my favorite), and the mystery of the ellingham case. i can officially say that this is one of my comfort series! 🌨🍂🫶🏼
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
681 reviews3,951 followers
March 25, 2020
all i care about starts at nine
Dance twelve hundred steps on the northern line
To the left bank three hundred times
Line flag

I can't believe this series is over! I had so much fun with this spooky, atmospheric mystery. It was a lot of fun and enjoyed revelling in some tropes and cliche's of dark academia/detective mysteries and I thought that was enjoyable. And at times it was genuinely creepy which was fun too.

I think I liked the middle book most of this series. One thing that did slightly annoy me about this one was I felt too many of the biggest reveals were just given to the reader, and then it didn't feel earned / you didn't get the rush of watching Stevie figure it out. I also think the end reveal, while fun, was a little left of field and I was thinking there should have been more hints and clues leading up to the reveal. However, I did like how the pieces ultimately fit together and the final reveal did have a fun, playing with cliches kind of moment which I enjoyed.

(Admittedly, I have watched knives out like twice this month which may have made me biased against all mystery reveals which aren't specifically the final scene of knives out so there's that)

“The wonderful thing about reality is that it is highly flexible. One minute, all is doom; the next, everything is abloom with possibility.”

I thought some of the character work wasn't all there. I just do not care about David and Stevie's romance or all the David related side plots. They fit awkwardly into the story and felt really displaced in this final book. The side characters didn't really do or say much, and Nate especially just was kind of ... there. But it didn't really matter too much since the entire time I was in this book for the mystery, not the characters. But the David side plot coming up all of a sudden was the one (1) point I put this book down for a bit, so it did impact my enjoyment somewhat.

That all said, I feel I'm complaining about this too much because I did enjoy it and read it in less than 24 hours. It's well-paced and fun, with some great reveals that really tie all the loose threads together. I felt I was given every answer I was longing for, and I liked the ultimate reveal of the motivations behind certain mysteries. The ending was also great, not too vague but not too tight. I thought it had a lot of creep and spook which I liked. Johnson is great at playing with atmosphere and setting, bringing this creepy old school with it's hidden passages and secret tunnels and trick staircases to life. I also liked the blending of the past and present, how the characters from 1936 felt so present and real in this one compared to the other books.

I feel like this series didn't need to be three books. It could've easily been a duology, or even one big book. But I think Johnson did well to fill out the series and not make every book seem like a needless drag, and I appreciated that! Especially since I was a little worried going into this one given the reveals in the one before.

Overall this is a really fun series. If you like fun detective/whodunit mysteries that play with the atmosphere you'll like this. It's a good spin on true crime and a genuinely fun mystery to unravel, and I think it's just the perfect thing to pick up in the afternoon and read on into the night. Actually, since I mentioned it - If you like Knives Out and how it played with genre and tropes and had a bit of fun with it, you'd probably like this too.

My Truly Devious review

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