2 In Blog Tour/ Review

Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen JohnsonThe Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3) by Maureen Johnson
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 21, 2020
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .
She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.
At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.
Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.
In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.
New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

I would like, first and foremost, to profusely thank the Fantastic Flying Book Club and HarperCollins for my review copy of The Hand on the Wall! I have such affection and love for this series, and actually screamed a little when the opportunity to review this grand finale came across my inbox. I am one of many stops on this blog tour – please check on all of my bloggy neighbors here to see the fun and shenanigans they are getting into on their pages!

I fell in love with Truly Devious when it first came out, and I absolutely adored The Vanishing Stair when I read it in February 2019. It had a hint of sophomore slump and middle child syndrome attached, but I knew this meant that the final book in the trilogy would kick ass – and I was right!

This being the third book in a series, I can’t format this blog review my “standard” way (in a “How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend” section and a “The Bottom Line” section), because I’d describe this book to a friend by throwing the first book, Truly Devious, at them and demanding they find a way to mainline all three of these books at once. So I will dispense with tradition for what is the first time on my blog, and just say this: The Hand on the Wall was everything I wanted, and then some.


When we finished The Vanishing Stair, our heroine Stevie had solved the crime of the century: she figured out the whodunit. But Patricia, you say, this is the second book in a series. There is a whole-ass third book. What more could Maureen Johnson possibly have up her sleeve? The answer is a whole hell of a lot, friend. In the best way possible. Let me reiterate two of my most favorite things about this series:

    • The lush, vibrant atmosphere. The first two books in the series take place in Fall, but The Hand on the Wall takes place in full-on Vermont winter, and I felt myself freezing alongside Stevie as she talked about the snowfall, the chill in the air, how hard it was to stay warm. Add to this the fact that Ellingham Academy is like a Vermont Hogwarts run by an escape room puzzle-maker – it is full of enchanting buildings and statues, a yoga studio, an art house, there’s even a yurt. I want to go back in time and attend Ellingham Academy.
    • Representation! All the representation, such good representation. We have excellent LGBTQIA rep with Vi, a young person who is dating Stevie’s BFF Janelle and uses they/them pronouns. Johnson seamlessly integrates these into the narrative without incident or issue. And Stevie suffers from bad anxiety and panic attacks – when they’re described, I just nod because it’s a very “girl, me too!” sort of feeling.

Finishing The Vanishing Stair buttoned up one mystery, but it opened like 5 more doors. With this finale, Johnson closes all of those doors, nails them shut, and makes sure they can’t become plot zombies and come shuffling back out. It was so satisfying to read this, I spent the entire last half of the book sitting there like:

If you want a damn good trilogy, look no further than the Truly Devious series – I am so pleased to say that its ending is perfecto, and I was so pleased to have been afforded the chance to read it.


Do you want the chance to win a copy of The Hand on the Wall for your very own, to have and to hold in the January cold? Click here to be taken to the Rafflecopter, where you can enter to win! (unfortunately, US only).

I could quote this book for days because it is the perfect blend of mysterious and hysterical. Mysterical? Anyway.

“Fun fact,” Stevie said, trying to lighten the mood in the vast, gloomy space. “This fireplace? Henry the Eighth had one just like it, in Hampton Court. Ellingham had an exact copy made.”
“Fun fact,” Nate replied, “Henry the Eighth killed two of his wives. Who wants a murderer’s fireplace?”
“I ‘m not sure, but that’s the name of my new game show.”


“Why were humans wired like this? Why were we built with a current that could short out our powers of reason and judgement at any time? Why were we filled with chemicals that made us stupid? How could you feel so excited and enraged and like you were being pierced with a thousand emotional needles in the brain all at the same time?”


“You know,” she said, “Disneyland is built on a slope because it also has a vast underground series of tunnels. […] They were built to keep characters in the right places. No one wants a space monster in Frontierland.”
“A space monster?” David said. “Have you been to Disneyland?”
“No,” Stevie said.
“Too expensive. But I spend my time planning my perfect Disney dream wedding, with the space monster and a … Mickey … something …”

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