Eighty years ago, there was a kidnapping and murder at the Ellingham Academy, a special school for individual learning in Vermont. Stevie Bell, a new student at Ellingham, is determined to solve the cold case. Then a new mystery arises, with a warning: the supposed former culprit, Truly Devious, is back.
This book was a lot of fun. It alternates between excerpts from the past and current-day events through Stevie’s eyes. Stevie is a fun character, a misfit in her family that suffers from severe anxiety and is obsessed with criminology. Her anxiety disorder and coping mechanisms are spot-on, as well as her awkward attempts to fit in with other students. The other characters and students at the academy are well-written, too, and I love seeing all the different kinds of people walking around the campus. (It was fun to casually meet a nonbinary character, even if they were only a side character!) The mysteries were also well-written, and the book had a great suspenseful pace that didn’t let me put it down. (Metaphorically, since it was on audio.) At the end, after getting to know more of the details, I had to go back and reread.
There were only two things I didn’t like about the book. I didn’t particularly enjoy the audio narration by Kate Rudd. Nothing against her – generally I’m just not a fan of the way YA books are read on audio. However, I think it’s a testament to the quality of the story itself that I not only kept listening, but listened twice. The second was about closure. This is the first in a series, and I’m okay with that – however, the book ended without any conclusion at all. I would have been fine had one of the two mysteries been solved and another new possibility opened up, that kind of thing. This felt like it just stopped in the middle of a story, though, and it’ll be quite some time before the next one releases. I’ve heard some people say that they wish the book had been a standalone, and I understand that sentiment because it really does feel like I’ve read 3/4ths of a book and was unable to read the rest. That’s frustrating. I’ll likely reread it when the next book comes out and head straight into that one.