Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

The highly anticipated sequel to Truly Devious, The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson is a killer second book in the trilogy.

Picking up shortly after the first book ends, Stevie finds herself back at home, miserable, friendless, and still trying to solve the Truly Devious mystery from afar. When an affluent visitor – the one and only Edward King, the politician whom Stevie absolutely despises – shows up at her home and convinces her parents to let Stevie return to Ellingham Academy, Stevie is unable to turn down his offer, despite the price he asks her to pay. But of course, Stevie can’t stay away from solving the mystery and as she looks further into Ellie’s disappearance and the clues she discovered at the end of the first book, Stevie enters dangerously uncharted territory.

Johnson immediately dives into the meat of this story and the quick pacing pulls you headfirst into the story. As the stakes rise and change – Ellie is still missing, David is acting out, Stevie’s time at Ellingham depends on her ability to keep David under control due to the deal she’s made with Edward King – the story has the potential to drag, but Johnson keeps it moving.

In addition, The Vanishing Stair features multiple timelines that are expertly woven together to eventually reveal more of what happened at Ellingham academy on the night of the Truly Devious kidnapping, and Albert Ellingham’s life after the disappearance of his wife and daughter. Despite all of the moving parts, the pieces of each story are easy to follow and skillfully lead up to the big reveal at the end of the book.

I first read Truly Devious right when it came out and didn’t remember much, so in preparing to read The Vanishing Stair, I chose to reread Truly Devious first. And while Johnson uses the beginning of the sequel to remind readers what happened in the first book, enough so that rereading certainly isn’t necessary, I found that I was able to appreciate her clever foreshadowing and plotting {in both books!) much more after reading Truly Devious for a second time. Johnson has woven in so many little details that add to the overall experience and enjoyment of these books, and I was left really impressed with how she has structured the series thus far.

One of the best parts of the Truly Devious books, and The Vanishing Stair in particular, is that Maureen Johnson lays out the clues for the reader as Stevie is making new discoveries and as the stakes rise for Stevie, the tension rises for the reader. You get to take in new information as Stevie does and work to solve the mystery alongside her. That’s not to say that Johnson makes it easy – with clues like riddles and underlined sentences in Sherlock Holmes books, the mysteries of The Vanishing Stair will require your full attention in order to reveal the truth.

Overall, The Vanishing Stair is an excellent novel for fans of mystery and true crime. With a powerful ending, and a tense cliffhanger to boot, Johnson will leave you eagerly awaiting the third book.

Rating: 10/10



About the book:

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.


The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Buy it here: Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndiebound


About the author:


Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan). Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.


The Vanishing Stair is available in stores today!


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