Truly Devious is easily one of my all time favorite series, and when I learned there would be ANOTHER BOOK after the trilogy, I was beside myself with excitement! This can technically be read as a standalone, as it is a separate murder mystery from the Truly Devious trilogy – but I would recommend reading that series first as this one assumes you already know all the characters. Please be aware this review will contain spoilers for the Truly Devious trilogy.
Title: The Box in the Woods
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #4
Genres: Mystery, Contemporary, Thriller
I can’t praise this book series enough – bury me with the Truly Devious series. I love it that much!
Stevie is on summer vacation from Ellingham Academy, working a summer job at a local supermarket and generally feeling bored when she gets an email from the owner of a summer camp, asking her to come “work as a camp counselor” at the camp but really solve a murder mystery from the 1970s. And of course help the owner with his new true crime podcast. She can even bring friends!
So thats how Stevie and her two best friends, Janelle and Nate, end up at a summer camp. I love seeing these three friends together again after all they went through just weeks prior at Ellingham Academy. Stevie’s fourth friend, and also boyfriend, David, is working and isn’t able to join them on this trip – he does make a cameo appearance later on, so don’t worry, there is some David action in this one too.
Falling back into this world feels comfortable, I had missed these characters and reading another story about them feels like coming home – not many books can do that for me. I read The Hand in the Wall when it came out and the details are a little fuzzy, but honestly you don’t need to remember the details to jump right into this one.
Stevie, Nate, and Janelle all have such great personalities and are all so relatable. Stevie and Nate tell it like it is, which is often hilarious to read, but feels so real and down to earth. Stevie has anxiety and panic attacks and she doesn’t try and hid it – its part of who she is and she embraces it, and has coping mechanisms, but doesn’t try to deny it. I loved getting to see these three friends interact again and talk about the “murder woods” and a new mystery for Stevie to solve.
“The murder camp thing is a little less fun now.”
This story overall felt very quick – its a mystery solved in just one book, compared to the Ellingham mystery which took three books, but I enjoyed the quick pacing. There was never a dull moment and the story moved quickly.
What makes this one different than the Ellingham mystery is that this murder occurred in the late 1970s meaning many of the witnesses and those who attended camp with the victims are still very much alive and in town – and Stevie can interview them all. I enjoyed this added element and it felt closer to home, so to speak, since it was more recent.
“A nurse came along with the promised blanket and tucked it around her, “Is that too tight? Do you want it loose?”
“I saw a moose once.”
Stevie’s fascination with the moose will never fail to greatly amuse me – and this book did not disappoint, there was once again mention of a moose!
I love a good mystery story, and Stevie is a great detective. I loved getting to read about her solve another unsolvable mystery and how she did it – I’m terrible at guessing ‘who done it’ and am always surprised! If you’re a fan of the Truly Devious series, you won’t want to miss this one! Honestly, I could read more stories about Stevie and her friends and never get bored.
I listened to the entire Truly Devious series on audio, so it only made sense to continue that route – I loveee Kate Rudd as a narrator and feel she does an amazing job at portraying all the characters and the tones of their voices. I hope to listen to more of her narration in the future, as she is truly a favorite!
I ended up on 2.25x speed by the end.
This book is great for anyone looking for a young adult murder mystery thriller set in contemporary times. The murder itself took place in the 1970s, so many of the witnesses are still alive and can tell their side of the story, which makes it different from the original trilogy. While this can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the Truly Devious trilogy first!