Goodreads: The Hand on the Wall
Series: Truly Devious #3
Three people have died. David has gone missing. It’s only a matter of time until Ellingham Academy is closed. Stevie Bell, however, is convinced that she has identified the person behind the 1936 Ellingham kidnappings. And she believes the case may be linked to what is happening in the present. Can she crack the case before it is too late?
The Hand on the Wall moves between the past and the present as teenager Stevie Bell attempts to solve the cold case of the century–and determine if it is linked to the student disappearances of the present day. Maureen Johnson keeps readers guessing even as new evidence comes to light. Readers who enjoy a good boarding school murder mystery will not want to miss The Hand on the Wall.
The Hand on the Wall is the final book in Johnson’s twisty mystery trilogy, and it does not disappoint. Book two suffered a bit from “middle book syndrome;” it felt a little like the story was dragging, even though Stevie was making progress on the case. Even an infusion of new characters could not really give the second book an extra boost of life. Book three, however, proves a satisfying conclusion–and that is just what readers need.
My main interest in the books is, admittedly, the mystery, even though so many of the characters are sympathetic, and even wonderful. Stevie’s supportive friend group is just the kind of friend group every girl needs–people willing to follow her into dark tunnels, even though they know it is the worst idea. I loved to see Stevie spending more time with the other students and finally relying on their expertise to help her with her case. But, I still mainly wanted to know who the culprit was. This focus helped me, I think, overlook the somewhat awful romance.
Honestly, I am not 100% sure what was going on with the romance in this trilogy. I was never too worried about that, though, because Stevie clearly does not understand it, either. However, I was a little confused that her love interest, David, seemed self-destructive and maybe actually a little unstable. There is a suggestion that David may be engaging in a Hamlet-like charade, but, like Hamlet, David probably is not wholly acting. The book does not really address any of this, however. Stevie has hormones and they are attracted to David and that is that, as far as the book is concerned. I had my reservations, but ultimately I decided I would just ignore the romance subplot and focus on the mystery. Problem solved!
Most YA books try to go for more of a “swoon-worthy” romance, less of a “Is he okay?” feeling with their pairings. However, the sense of unease this romance gives was present from the first book, so there is really nothing new going on here. And so, The Hand of the Wall ultimately delivers. Readers get to delve more into the romance, into Stevie’s relationships with her fellow students, and into the history of Ellingham Academy and its notorious kidnappings. Culprits are identified and plots resolved. If you liked the first two books, you will probably like this one, as well.