The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers. All thoughts and opinions are my own, my preferences may be different to yours. Please keep that in mind.


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 sayShe 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.

-From HarperCollinsPublishers


I am back with the second book in the ‘Truly Devious’ series by Maureen Johnson. It took me a little longer to read this one since things started picking back up at work. But I finally was able to pick it up and just like the first book read it in a short amount of time.

It picks up pretty much right were the first one ended. Stevie was carted off home by her helicopter parents who can’t seem to realize that Stevie is her own person. I really don’t like her parents. And I really don’t like this Edward King guy who just pops up. He just comes off as creepy and sketchy and that’s not even all from him being a politician. He has some diabolical plan up his sleeve and he is using Stevie to do it.

The fact that Johnson has managed to make the character so easy to hate based on their characterization as a person alone astounds me. I get more impressed when a person can get me to hate a character wholeheartedly then when I fall in love with a character. Because usually I just don’t care/won’t care about the person I’m not supposed to like. But here I care enough to hate them and want to hit them with a brick.

We do get some new characters in this book. In both the past events and the present. Thankfully not that many and not in an overwhelming way. They fit perfectly into the storyline and at least partially make sense. We have Frankie and Eddie, the Bonnie and Clyde wannabes at Ellingham in the 1930s when the original events went down and then Doctor Fenton and her nephew Hunter.

Stevie seems to try and move on from what had happened. She does. I mean okay. Yeah, she does try and get some answers to her questions, let’s be honest. But at least one person seems to be totally against that. David.

This dumb*ss seems hellbent on messing everything up for everyone. Not just himself. All because of who his dad is? And okay he does have a bit of a troubled past but grow up. You’re not the only one. I don’t really like the whole Edward King, David conspiracy going on here. It doesn’t seem to fit it like the other side plots do. Maybe it will make sense in the final book? I’m not sure. I’m gonna start it soon.

And beyond that, there seems to be something serious going on with David. Like he’s completely lost it and I hate to do it but I can’t blame Stevie for making so many comparisons between David and his father. He is coming off as just as selfish, suspicious, and tricky.

Okay, enough about David. The book isn’t even about him. The book is about a kidnapping and triple murder. Johnson gives up more flashbacks with more information about the case from 1930 and we get to see Stevie work all the little pieces out and then fit them all back together again. It’s incredible how well Johnson threads the past with the present and doesn’t leave any details out or make it seem completely outlandish.

Final Thoughts:

I am giving The Vanishing Stair a 4 out of 5 cups of tea rating. Overall, I think this was a great sequel to the first one. I appreciated that there wasn’t a sudden influx of new characters to get used to or that there was suddenly a new plot to follow.

I really didn’t vibe with the Edward/David fiasco. It just seems out of place maybe? I guess it is useful to add more angst and drama to the story. I’ll be honest I really hated how David’s character played out it this one. I was constantly getting angry and frustrated. It did feel slightly over the top and obnoxious.

Without giving anything much away, I love how Johnson revealed the truth about the kidnapping and murder. It was shocking and at the same time clearly the only way it could have possibly played out. I was very grateful that she didn’t drag it out until the third book.

And here we have it! I am really excited to read the final installment of the ‘Truly Devious’ series and hopefully get a really nice conclusion to everything.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s book review! If you’ve read The Vanishing Stair let me know what you thought. Or if you have any recommendations I am always open to hearing them!


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