Ari's Reviews > The Hand on the Wall

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2020-reads, favorites

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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.
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Reading Progress

January 27, 2020 – Shelved
January 29, 2020 – Started Reading
January 29, 2020 –
page 143
January 30, 2020 –
page 205
54.67% "When in emergency mode, one of the things that Stevie takes with her is her copy of And Then There Were None. ...I love this girl."
January 31, 2020 –
75.0% "So close!"
February 1, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020-reads
February 1, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 3, 2020 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Inkslinger (new)

Inkslinger Fantastic review :)

message 2: by Ari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ari Inkslinger wrote: "Fantastic review :)"

Thankees <3 I'm sad it's over though :\

message 3: by Inkslinger (new)

Inkslinger Maybe it'll get revisited in the future.. that happens.

message 4: by Ari (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ari Fingers crossed. I'd love to read more of Stevie Bell, my soul-detective sister :P

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