Stevie Bell solved the case of Truly Devious, and now she’s taking her detecting skills abroad when she becomes embroiled in a mystery from 1990s England. Another pulse-pounding and laugh-out-loud stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.
Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.
Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.
The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.
Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.
So. This book. I absolutely loved all the books that came before this one, and I was super excited to see that this installment takes place in England, with the central murder mystery taking place at a manor house. I love settings like this, and I was looking forward to what Johnson did with this idea and how Stevie and the gang would handle it.
This book had a lot of characters. There are of course Stevie and her gang, plus David’s new friend in England, Izzy, then all of the characters from the central mystery, The Nine. Because there are nine of them. Or were. (cue ominous music)
Let’s start with The Nine. The book does so we will too. The Nine are a group of very close friends in the 90s, who live and work and go to school together. They share everything, swap romantic partners within the group all the time, and basically just live in each others pockets. However, they are on the precipice of leaving their snug hive, have packed up their shared home, and are about to start their own individual independent lives. So they plan to have one last hurrah, at the manor house of one of their group. They arrive, get drunk, and play a game of hide and seek in a rainstorm in the wee hours of the night. And in the morning, two of them are dead. Who did it?
I really enjoyed this whole mystery, the idea of it, being so Christie-esque. Now enter the Ellingham group. David, Stevie’s boyfriend, is living and going to school in London, while the rest of them are focused on finishing their last year back in Vermont. Filling out applications, taking tests, preparing for their futures. All except Stevie, who seems to be floundering and a bit lost. David calls with an invitation for the group to meet him in London, like a study overseas program, and with a little bit of finagling, they get the school to agree to them going, with the caveat that they must be learning and that the trip is purposeful and not just for vacation.
Now our gang in in London for the rest of the book, Stevie is introduced to this murder mystery by David’s friend Izzy, and for Stevie, the game is afoot. However, her friends aren’t quite as keen this time around. They need to stick to their plans, they want to accomplish what they are there for, and while they want to help solve this mystery, they also need to think about their own futures as well.
Stevie really bothers me in this book. She just was so selfish and not very self-aware, while also being really wrapped up in her personal issues. There was way too much of that sort of drama in this book compared to the others, and I had to remind myself that this is a YA book and not intended for adults. So maybe it is just that I am not the intended audience here, and did not care to revisit that part of youth. However, I could see it being a realistic portrayal of that time of life – a bit lost, a bit scared, confused, full of dreams but uncertainty too. So I am giving Stevie a break, I wasn’t too much better at 17 either.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with its nod to the locked room mystery.