I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson last year and loved it (review here). So it's no surprise that the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, was one of my most anticipated releases for 2019. Lemme just say, it did not disappoint.
A quick recap of the first for those not familiar: Stevie Bell is a young true crime aficionado who hopes to one day become a detective. She's enrolled at Ellingham Academy, a Vermont boarding school that is tailored to students with various talents. It's also the site of an unsolved kidnapping/murder case that happened in the '30s. Stevie has made it her mission to solve this cold case, and during the events of her investigation, one student is killed and another flees after being suspected of having something to do with it. Stevie and her friends, including her semi-crush David, are thrust into trying to find out who's behind these murders before it's too late.
**Potential Spoilers Ahead**
|Pub Date: 1-22-19|
Young Adult - Mystery
Finally back at Ellingham, Stevie is quick to jump back into where she left off trying to uncover the truth behind the Truly Devious murders that happened back in the '30s. Stevie is paired with Dr. Fenton, a local professor who wrote one of the most famous books about the case, as a fact checker for her new novel. Between trying to keep David in line without him finding out why, and retracing Ellie's footsteps to see how and where she ran off to, Stevie isn't putting her full focus on the bigger mission at hand. Then while digging up information for Fenton, who Stevie gradually feels is also hiding something, she stumbles onto a massive lead that blows the decades long unsolved case wide open.
I loved coming back to this world and these characters. The true crime aspect and following Stevie along as she collects these clues and ties all the connections together is so fascinating. I'm also a sucker for the whole boarding-school-in-the-fall vibes. With this one, I found a new appreciation for Stevie's group of friends as well. Nate is so cranky and sarcastic; Janelle is lovely and caring; and Larry the security guard is so protective over Stevie. I was really impressed with the way the story and case developed. There were twists that I didn't see coming. Like the first book, Johnson blends the present investigation with the past events, this time including perspectives from the students, Francis and Edward (who were slightly touched upon in the first book as the potential writers of the Truly Devious ransom poem), and a little taste of Dottie, the student who was part of the murder. My only gripe is that I felt like the whole story could've been wrapped up in this book, rather than waiting a whole year for a third. This also means this book ended on a major cliff hanger, and if you thought the first book's cliff hanger was good, this one blows that out of the water. I seriously need the next book ASAP. If you're looking for a little mystery in your life, check this series out!