#MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them in this feature too!

The Vanishing Stair is book 2 in the Truly Devious Trilogy (my review of book 1 Truly Devious, is here). The story is set in Ellingham Academy, a residential school in Vermont which takes only gifted students, each of whom have a specific interest, and encourages them to hone those skills through curricula designed accordingly. In the 1930s, when Ellingham was first established, the founder Albert Ellingham’s wife and three-year-old child were kidnapped never to be found again. His wife’s body was recovered a few days later, but nothing was ever heard of his daughter Alice. Another student at the academy, Dottie Epstein had also disappeared at the same time. Before the events, Ellingham had received threats including from someone mysterious who called themselves Truly Devious—a riddle in a letter with letters cut out from newspapers. A man was arrested for the crime, but many believed that he wasn’t actually responsible. These include in the present day, Stevie Bell, a young student with a special interest in true crime, and particularly the Ellingham case.  In the first book, she gets into the Academy, and is on the way to realise her dream of actually solving the case. But her investigations she finds are not confined to the events of the past for it seems Truly Devious might strike again, and in fact does, when a student she was working with on a reconstruction of the crime, is killed.

In this one, the story picks up from where we left off in previous book. After Stevie had picked up on a clue to the present-day murder and pointed it out, leading another student to run, her parents pulled her out of Ellingham for her safety. But now another, unexpected chance appears for her to return, but one that has a condition that isn’t the most welcome one. Still being her only chance to go back, Stevie accepts. Back at Ellingham, she soon fits back into what has become her home, with her friends and begins work once again on the two cases, mostly the Ellingham case. Ellie, the girl who had vanished has not been seen or heard from since the time, and Stevie doesn’t seem to know where she might have gotten to, while others seem to give rather unconvincing suggestions. But Stevie has clues to more than one aspect of the old case, and she is keen to continue piecing it together. Meanwhile she also gets a chance to assist a professor with her research on the Ellingham case. The professor, Fenton, has written one book on the case already, and is planning another and claims that if some details check out she will be able to solve the puzzle. It is here that Stevie is supposed to help. But another new character, Fenton’s nephew Hunter suggests she might have other motives too. Meanwhile Stevie must also keep up her end of the bargain for returning to Ellingham which is causing her a dilemma between her own feelings and ‘a deal with the devil’ so to speak. Also, as in the previous book, the story goes back and forth between present-day events and those in the past, and these give us answers which even Stevie doesn’t know so far.

I read this instalment almost eight months after reading the first one, so while I remembered the broad storyline and some of the characters, many of the details had disappeared as well as some of the characters; so when I started this one, it took me a while to get my head around everything and get back into the story. But once I was back into it, I once again found it to be an exciting and gripping read. While as I mentioned in my review of the first book, the whole mystery will be resolved only in the final book, there are plenty of important revelations in this one too, and it seems Stevie has pretty nearly solved the old case, well at least a major part of it. But events in the present day begin to get much more complicated, and the killer strikes yet again, with leaving us with more unsolved crimes, and only part of the answer to the old one. I thought it ended with a good mix of answers and new and old questions, and left me excited to see how everything finally turns out. Also it certainly does give you a creepy feeling when reading it! Great read once again.

2 thoughts on “#MurderousMondays: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

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