The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious Series #2)

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious Series #2)

by Maureen Johnson


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New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller!

In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel in the Truly Devious series, there are more twists and turns than Stevie Bell can imagine. No answer is given freely, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

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 the guy 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.

* Junior Library Guild Selection * Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books of 2019 * Hypable's Best Books of 2019 *

Praise for Book One:

“The Agatha Christie-like ecosystem pairs with lacerating contemporary wit, and alternating past and present scenes makes for a multilayered, modern detective story.” —New York Times Book Review

“Remember the first time reading Harry Potter and knowing it was special? There’s that same sense of magic in the introduction of teen Sherlock-in-training Stevie Bell.” —USA Today (four stars)

“Be still, my Agatha-Christie-loving beating heart.” —Bustle

Editorial Reviews

Buffalo News

In this second installment of her marvelous Truly Devious series, Maureen Johnson offers thrilling suspense, sly wit, a memorable cast of characters and more pieces of her deliciously intricate puzzle.

John Green

An intricately plotted, compulsively readable novel that explores not only fascinating crimes but also the mysteries of anxiety, the creative process, contemporary fame, and so much else.

The Horn Book

Johnson judiciously doles out some satisfying partial answers to the historical case while (presumably) saving the big reveals for the next installment. This fulfilling second volume will gratify serious mystery fans; and many readers will enjoy seeing themselves reflected in Stevie’s diverse and eccentric group of friends.


Johnson deftly twists two mysteries together—Stevie’s investigation is interspersed with case files and recollections from the Ellington kidnapping—and the result is a suspenseful, attention-grabbing mystery with no clear solution. The versatile Johnson is no stranger to suspense, and this twisty thriller will leave plenty of readers anxious for more.


Waiting for the next installment of Maureen Johnson’s Agatha Christie-Sherlock Holmes-classic mystery homage series was torture, but The Vanishing Stair is oh so worth it.

Entertainment Weekly

Take it from the world’s most impatient reader: If the Truly Devious series is basically one long mystery book, The Vanishing Stair is a middle part so enjoyable you won’t even want to skip to the end.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Johnson quickly sets the game afoot, skillfully introducing a Clue-like set of characters, laying out various motives, and hinting at long held secrets. There’s a delicious slow-burn element to the locked-room mystery in Stevie’s present, while the chapters on the kidnappings read like a true crime novel.

Horn Book Magazine

Told in alternating chapters, Johnson’s finely tuned plot effectively employs classical mystery tropes while maintaining a thoroughly modern sensibility. Stevie’s quirky, ragtag bunch of new friends crosses sexuality and class lines, providing teen readers with a wealth of characters to connect with.


Johnson gives and she takes away: a few major mysteries are satisfying solved, but other long-standing riddles remain tantalizingly indecipherable, and several new ones come into play . . . Readers, hang tight: there’s one more round to come, and if the signs are right, it’ll be to die for.

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Johnson quickly sets the game afoot, skillfully introducing a Clue-like set of characters, laying out various motives, and hinting at long held secrets. There’s a delicious slow-burn element to the locked-room mystery in Stevie’s present, while the chapters on the kidnappings read like a true crime novel.

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2019-12-08
Murder and mayhem return to Ellingham Academy.

This sequel to Truly Devious (2018), an engrossing mystery set at an exclusive prep school in the mountains of Vermont, ramps up the intrigue as teen sleuth Stevie Bell continues to probe Ellingham's troubled past and present. At the end of Volume 1, Stevie's parents, having gotten wind that following the supposedly accidental death of one student, another had gone missing, yanked her out of Ellingham and brought her home to Pittsburgh. Now Stevie gets to return to Ellingham thanks to the intercession of the "worst man in America," scheming, nationalistic Pennsylvania senator Edward King, for whom Stevie's parents work. King asks Stevie to keep an eye on his rebellious son, David, who's also her love interest. Once back, Stevie continues to investigate both the present-day death of housemate Hayes Major and the uncanny disappearance of Element "Ellie" Walker as well as the 1936 Ellingham kidnapping and murders. As before, Johnson deftly alternates between Stevie's first-person narrative, as her investigations yield new insights and dangers for her mostly white, serviceably diverse set of misfit-genius classmates, and historical flashbacks involving the original Ellingham mysteries. Throughout this volume, Johnson's compelling would-be Sherlock proves to be as bad at personal relationships as she is adept at solving mysteries.

Teen angst soars as Johnson delightfully conjures up more nefarious deeds from the mountain mist. (Fiction. 14-18)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062338099
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/10/2019
Series: Truly Devious Series , #2
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,428
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

Customer Reviews