This is the much-anticipated (by me) sequel to Truly Devious, and so I won’t say anything about the plot and give things away for the first book. This is a double mystery, after all!
When I read Truly Devious last year, I left with two impressions. First, the book felt very unfinished. I felt like I had no answers at all, with no mysteries wrapped up, and no real conclusion. It wasn’t that I felt there was a cliffhanger – the story just felt unfinished and mildly dissatisfying, even after a second read. Second, I somewhere got the impression that this was the first of a two-book series, so I expected The Vanishing Stair to be the end of the story. Both of these impressions combined led The Vanishing Stair to be one of my most highly anticipated books of 2019, and I preordered the audiobook as soon as it was available. Before it arrived, I re-listened to Truly Devious (still felt unfinished, though not as much on this third read), and then I dove in immediately when the audiobook arrived on the 22nd.
Holy Wow. This book was GOOD. Also, it ended on a major cliffhanger, because apparently this is NOT the last book in the series. Some mysteries are cleared up. Others are opened. New characters are introduced. New tragedies color the scene. New motives are explored. The Ellingham school is under a thick cloud of tension. And the waters are muddied far more than in the first book.
I have suspicions. I have very specific suspicions, confirmed by a fourth read of Truly Devious and three readings of The Vanishing Stair. (It’s a double-mystery story! I tend to go through these multiple times, looking for clues.) I’d mention my suspicions here if there weren’t spoilers involved. And yes, I wish I had a group to discuss this all with! I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait at least another year for answers…
On a side note, one of my favorite things about these books is the nonchalant way that Johnson addresses characters who don’t often show up in books – people with disabilities, non-binary characters, etc. The books aren’t about these characters or their situations, but they exist and are right in the foreground. I feel like these sorts of books are important, because the casual acceptance and acknowledgement of all kinds of people is one of the things that I think helps move our culture and tolerance levels forward. The world is changed through artists and activists, in my opinion, and this is a fantastic example of the former. Love it.