Title: The Vanishing Stair
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious, #2
Page Count: 369
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre(s): Young adult, Mystery, Fiction
“Where do you look for someone who’s never really there? Always on a staircase but never on a stair.”Albert Ellingham, 1938
Who doesn’t love a good mystery on a below-zero, snowed-in day? Crazy people, that’s who. It’s been a little over a year since I read an ARC of book #1: Truly Devious. And here I am in 2019 reading the sequel just hours before it is released. I have my new job to thank for that. By time you read this review, the novel will officially be released and for sale, and I seriously encourage you to go pick it up.
***Spoilers ahead for book 1. Anyone who hasn’t yet read Truly Devious and does not want anything spoiled needs to leave this review now!!***
Stevie Bell loves mysteries. She loves them so much, she was accepted into the prestigious Ellingham Academy, site of the notorious Ellingham kidnapping/murder. During her first semester, she not only attempted to solve this decades-old cold case, but ended up starring in a mystery of her own: one dead classmate, another on the run.
Though Stevie essentially solves the mystery, her parents remove her from Ellingham immediately. Desperate to return to the school and continue her research, Stevie takes a deal from her worst enemy: Edward King, a despised politician and also the father of David—her friend and also the boy she kissed. Anything to get back on the case. Back at Ellingham, things are weird with David, but as Stevie gets closer to cracking the old case, she finds more than she bargained for regarding the mysteries of the present, both old and new.
If you love mysteries, there’s no doubt you loved Truly Devious and also became engaged when it ended on a cliffhanger. It’s been a year and finally we have answers—aaaaaaand lots more questions.
The first half of the novel is a lot slower than the first book. There’s a lot of setting up to do—what’s been going on since Stevie left-then-returned-to Ellingham, the David stuff, reminding us which characters are which, reminding us of the important events of book 1, and even introducing some new characters to the game. But this slowness doesn’t make for a boring novel at all. If you’re reading the story, you’re probably attached and dedicated to it at this point, and it really doesn’t disappoint. It’s interesting from cover to cover.
The story is told in the same style as its predecessor: third-person POV from the perspective of Stevie, alternating with chapters flashing back to the past during the time of the Ellingham kidnapping. I’m starting to really love these flashback-type stories. I love how it all starts to connect and make sense. I guess that’s why I really like mysteries, too.
Stevie is just as you remember her—witty, smart, and totally relatable. Once again, I must mention how absolutely real Stevie’s anxiety is and how Johnson manages to express it in words.
“Anxiety and excitement are cousins; they can be mistaken for each other at points. They have many features in common—the bubbling, carbonated feel of the emotion, the speed, the wide eyes and racing heart. But where excitement tends to take you up, into the higher, brighter levels of feeling, anxiety pulls you down, making you feel like you have to grip the earth to keep from sliding off as it turns.”
Like, I feel that. I love Stevie. She is so smart even when she is making mistakes. She is meticulous and enjoys things that I also enjoy but find other people think are weird.
“This is the kind of work that soothed her and got her out of her head. Break it down, put it in order, make a list.”
I wish Stevie could be my best friend.
The second half of the novel is heart-pounding and as exciting as the first. I love mysteries. I read 300 of these pages today alone. That’s how good it is. Don’t just take my word for it. If you liked Truly Devious, this is more of the same in terms of writing and those lovable characters, but with new twists and turns. I just finished it and let me tell you: I’m already craving the next book. Does it leave you on a cliffhanger again? You’ll just have to find out.