The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson


Goodreads: The Vanishing Stair
Series: Truly Devious #2
Source: Library
Published: 2019


Stevie Bell thought she had solved the mystery of a fellow student’s death. But now another student is missing. Did that student commit the crime or is something more sinister afoot? Meanwhile, Stevie is still determined to crack the cold case of the century: to figure out who kidnapped the wife and daughter of 1930s tycoon Albert Ellingham, founder of Stevie’s school, Ellingham Academy. Could the murders of the past be connected to the present?

Star Divider

The first book in the Truly Devious trilogy introduced readers to a gripping mystery that ended, of course, on a cliffhanger. Now, Stevie Bell is back at Ellingham Academy, ready to solve the cold case of the century, but also determined to discover if the Ellingham kidnappings are related to the crimes of the present. Maureen Johnson fills her book full of twists and turns, but, ultimately, The Vanishing Stair cannot wholly escape the “second book slump.”

Truly Devious delighted me with its witty narration, its lovable characters, and its elusive mystery, so I was excited to be able to pick up the sequel. The Vanishing Stair delivered on many of the same fronts of the first book, keeping me on my toes with new clues and evidence, while immersing me in Stevie’s strange, but charming, world. Perhaps inevitably, however, I found myself somewhat disappointed, anyway.

One of my main disappointments comes from how Stevie begins to piece together the mystery. At times, clues seem to literally fall into her lap, allowing her to solve the mystery no one else could simply because they never had the advantage of being able to dig around the Ellingham campus for clues. This makes sense, of course, but I still wish the clues were a little more subtle in some cases–something that required Stevie to do some deducing and not simply look at a note that basically says, “I am the criminal! I did it!” The book wants me to believe in her superior mystery-solving skills, but it is a little hard to do this when some of the clues are so obvious anyone who can read English can figure out what they are.

I also ultimately felt that the book lacks direction or perhaps a sense of purpose. Even though Stevie is still on the case, and very close to solving it, the lackluster conclusion makes The Vanishing Stair feel like it’s just an interlude between books one and three. I really wanted a book that felt like readers had made significant strides on the case and, as a result, ended up with some satisfying bit of knowledge, along with a sense of accomplishment, at the end. I did not get that, however, though that is perhaps unsurprising as I thought the ending of book one was weak, as well.

The few weaknesses of the book, however, cannot ruin its appeal for me. I am still invested in the case and I plan to be glued to my seat once again as I head into book three. This case is not so easy to solve–and that’s exactly what makes it so compelling.

4 stars

16 thoughts on “The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

  1. Cal's Constant Raving Reviews says:

    Were you satisfied with how the book opens– re: confirming the cliffhanger from Book 1? I found it so disappointing… I wanted [redacted] to be alive! But no… they dead. Dead dead. Like body was rotting and Stevie found it, Dead.


  2. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the second book so much! I read Truly Devious when only book 1 was out. I hope to finish the trilogy someday… Do you think I need to re-read book 1 to really understand the mystery? Honestly, I don’t recall much of the first book at all. XD Oops! Though, I do find that Johnson’s writing is easy to read. I love that.


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