Thursday 23 September 2021

Shocktember 2021 - The Vanishing Stair

As you know from earlier this month, I finally - finally - started reading the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson. My write-up for Truly Devious is here and... well... I was very unsure this. I knew I was going to read the rest of the mystery - the Truly Devious mystery covers three books (Truly Devious, The Vanishing Stair and Hand on the Wall). I'm in two minds over read the fourth book in the series - Box in the Wood - as this is a standalone, companion mystery. So, we shall see... 

But Vanishing Stair... where to begin with that?

Title And Author: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: Harper360

Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: eBook bought while Audiobook’s borrowed from local library via BorrowBox app. 

After the events of Truly Devious, Stevie Bell is back in her hometown and she hates it. She wants to be back at Ellingham Academy. She wants to be back so she can solve the unsolved kidnapping and triple murder of Ellingham Academy (aka Truly Devious). But for her safety, her parents pulled her out. But when despicable, right wing politician (who her parents work for) Edward King offer her a chance to go back, Stevie jumps at it, even though it means making a deal with the devil. 

But she's back, with her friends, her teachers, the mystery and David... the guy who kissed her, the guy who lied to her, and... oh yeah... Edward King's son. 

But as she finds her feet at Ellingham, she begins to wonder over what happened to past few weeks and wonders... what if... and as she looks into the Ellingham case, she also wonders... what if Truly Devious had nothing to do with the kidnapping... 

I'm going to admit that I prefer The Vanishing Stair over Truly Devious. 

I completely get why. Truly Devious was the set-up book. Things had to be laid out so when readers got into the mystery, we knew most of the information about the case, then characters and everything else. But Truly Devious was... well... slow. No, not slow. I knew this story was going to be spread across three books so, of course, I knew the pacing would be slower than I normally like, but there were elements that just felt flat and not very fleshed out. 

But here, this felt more up my street. I knew almost immediately that I was going to prefer the Vanishing Stair. The characters felt a tad more fleshed out (still on the quirky side) and elements of both cases - the cold Ellingham case and the current Ellingham case - felt more. I can't really explain it, but there was something about this book that just worked for me. I felt much happier to spend time with these characters here than in Truly Devious

But some issues I had with Truly Devious continue. I was more engaged with the 1930s Ellingham case than I am with the current (am I really meant to care about the current events?), the characters still feel a tad cardboard cutout at times and the romance... oh boy. I am NOT on board with Stevie and David. In fact, I loathe David. I have said that in the past that find David quite a toxic person - a compulsive, arrogant liar - and alarm bells rung in my head when the romance was pushed into the forefront. And I wrote in my Truly Devious write-up that Maureen Johnson is going to do a huge story arc with him to make us like him and be on board or is trying to shine a light on toxic teen romances. I now have a sinking feeling that it's neither and I am not on board. I am positive we continue to see him and their relationship grow throughout the series and yet, David's behaviour is never truly called out, so... yeah... not a fan of this. 

But, I did enjoy this a lot more than Truly Devious, and I am going to read the final in the Ellingham mystery, The Hand On The Wall. But my biggest concern is whether Maureen Johnson is going to pull both mysteries off... we will have to wait and see... 

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