Review: The Box In The Woods by Maureen Johnson

I absolutely LOVED the Truly Devious series, so I was thrilled when I learned that Maureen Johnson was writing another mystery featuring the same characters! I rarely preorder a book, preferring instead to wait until it appears in one of the half dozen Kindle daily deal emails I receive, but I knew had to get my hands on this one as soon as possible, so I purchased this one months before its release date. After what seemed like eons of waiting, finally the day came when I got to see beyond the cover to the actual pages of the book!

While I really enjoyed this story, it was definitely different from the previous novels in the series. For one, it felt darker, which I didn’t mind at all, but there were other differences that were an uncomfortable fit, like a too tight sock. The supporting characters (Stevie’s friends) felt a little off to me, maybe because they didn’t have as much of a chance to show their personalities in this one. They almost felt like window dressing to me – only there to serve a specific purpose instead of adding to the dynamics of the plot.

But I think the biggest difference for me was the mystery itself. There aren’t many suspects in this one, so the big payoff of the reveal is more focused on the how and why of the crime. The author does leave a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow, and while I don’t mind when I can’t put all the clues together early, when the motivation of the killer comes to light it this one, it almost felt like it wasn’t fair play.

Ultimately, I did like this book, but suspect I would have enjoyed it more had it used characters I was unfamiliar with. After waiting so long to reconnect with Stevie and the gang, the reunion felt a little underwhelming, but Maureen Johnson puts on a good show! 4.5 stars!

From Goodreads:

The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls–the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

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