The Vanishing Stairs by Maureen Johnson

The second volume in the Truly Devious trilogy…

Themes: murder mystery, romance, private school, academia

The review

Stevie has been taken off from the Ellingham Academy by her parents, before making a deal with David’s father to go back. Thanks to this return, she finally learns a bit more about the Ellingham mystery and so the reader does. I liked that we don’t discover things entirely with Stevie this time but with the main protagonist and victim of the case: Albert Ellingham himself. Finally, the case is the main subject of the series and I have to admit the author frightened me when she made the big revelation. I was thinking ‘that’s all?’ and was quite disappointed (and wondering about what will be the plot of the 3rd volume if everything was solved in The Vanishing Stairs). But fortunately, the case is even more complex than we first believed and is leaving us with more questions than at the end of Truly Devious.

The characters are clearly not the focus of the book and still not very developed except for Albert and Stevie which is logical since we see the action through their eyes. I think we are even more in Stevie’s head than in the first volume which makes some scenes quite unsettling (especially with Stevie’s very detailed comments and feelings). We continue to learn more about human psychology and various subjects, which is a strong point for me as a reader since I find it gives consistency to the book. David is not sufferable again in this volume and I’m definitively team Nate (and you, in which one are you?). We’re also introduced to some new characters such as Dr Fenton who shows how much on this kind of case can impact your psychological wellbeing.

What I always admire in thrillers and mysteries is how everything always makes sense at the end and has a place in the final resolution. And here, even the title has a meaning! Even if I liked Albert and Stevie solving the case simultaneously, I enjoyed much less the two-time narration this time, at least for the first part of the book. Indeed, even if we meet new characters of 1936 and discover more about the events, I was bothered by the fact we know things before Stevie and thought it made the plot a bit repetitive.

In brief: I want to study at Ellingham. It would be so great to discover all the tunnels and mysteries hidden in this place! More seriously, I thought my rating would be low for this one because of its slow beginning. But the last half of the book is so action-packed that I read it in one sprint! If you have the same feeling as me when starting The Vanishing Stairs don’t give up, it’s really worth it 😉

My rating: 5/5

Trigger warnings: murder, panic attacks/anxiety

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