Truly Devious

A Mystery
Narrated by: Kate Rudd
Series: Truly Devious, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1,245 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart. 

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early 20th century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place", he said, "where learning is a game." 

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym "Truly, Devious". It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. 

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three. 

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2018 

Junior Library Guild Selection 

2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nomination 

2019 ALA's Best Fiction for Young Adults Nomination 

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2018 

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction 2018  

2018 Nerdy Book Club Young Adult Winner 

Seventeen Best YA Book of 2018 

Lincoln Award Nominee 

2020-2021 South Carolina Book Awards Nominee

©2018 HarperCollins Publishers (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Featured Article: Best Mystery Series—Listens You Won't Be Able to Pause


While a standalone mystery is great when you're in the mood for a one-and-done, sometimes it’s all about feeding the craving for a mystery book series—knowing you’ll have a world and characters that you can keep coming back to while solving a winding mystery. And with audiobooks, you get the added bonus of sinking deeper into the world as it’s read for you. From murder mysteries to detective novels, these series are even better in audio.

What listeners say about Truly Devious

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed it, but I’m pissed about the ending

This book was truly addicting. I loved it. Right up until the end when the author literally says “to be continued.” It kinda pissed me off. There was no resolution, just open ended questions leading the reader to believe that one person is probably the murderer (but let’s be honest that person likely didn’t do it).

139 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Mystery Books Need Endings

Beginning, middle, end. Key elements to a story. Even a bad story. The writing in this book is enjoyable, the characters are interesting, the pacing is great. Until it's not. The book is a mystery and everything leads up to the climax perfectly. The ending is so close, it seems it's going to wrap up nicely... and then it ends before there is ANY resolution. I understand that it's a series. I even get that a cliffhanger is a nice way to end a book in a series. When you string a reader along in a mystery, however, you'd better deliver the killer by the end of the book. The series can go on, more murders with the same characters, but RESOLVE THE ORIGINAL INCIDENT FIRST! Dragging things out for three books may work in other genres, but mystery readers generally expect ENDINGS to every volume.

130 people found this helpful

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Bad Ending

Enjoyed the story but the Ending! Leads you to and then down the Rabbit Hole with no ending in site (unless you buy book 2). Hate books like this that employ this marketing tool.

70 people found this helpful

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Clickbait! Don’t waste a credit to these con artists!

I have thousands, maybe tens of thousands of books in both my home and audible libraries. As a child, I lived in the public library or the bookstore. I grew up to write and never lost my love of words and literature. NEVER have I purchased a book that pretends to be a complete novel but is in fact only some chapters of a complete novel. This is false advertising, and a dishonest. sneaky way to take people’s money. Shame on you Maureen Johnson.

7 people found this helpful

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Truly Devious

Very engrossing. Keeps you guessing as to what’s going to happen next however the ending is a let down. You never find out what happens.

31 people found this helpful

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damn school trope got me

read upon recommendation. Thought it might be a harriet the spy type thing but the author just HAD to put in a "magical" school trope. The school wasnt magic but its still a special school with houses and students with special talents. So whatever this book had going for it was seriously ruined because of this overused trope. I did not think the ending was THAT bad. Not so much mystery and case solving. Too much focus on school imo.

29 people found this helpful

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Thoroughly Enjoyable Story with Awful Narration

What did you love best about Truly Devious?

WARNING TO ANY PROSPECTIVE READERS: Although I loved this book, it ends on a really obnoxious cliffhanger and almost nothing gets resolved.

But it's saying something that, despite that, I still really enjoyed it. I should've known going in after reading quite a few of Johnson's books that it wouldn't give me closure (pretty sure Suite Scarlett is NEVER going to have a third book) but after how disappointingly boring I found her book "The Name of the Star", especially for its cop-out explanation to the 'mystery' being GHOSTS ARE REAL instead of... a real mystery, I really enjoyed this story.

It's still not grounded in anything close to the reality you and I know, but that works for it. Eccentric millionaires and long-past murder mysteries that interweive with the present are far-fetched, but Johnson makes it believable enough to work. It is really obnoxious that basically nothing is solved by the end... but I guess that's one way to make us look out for book 2.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Truly Devious?

I loved the characters. Stevie was a pretty enjoyable protagonist - just weird and antisocial enough to avoid being bland but not too much that she was actually unlikable. As usual, Johnson handles the little love interest subplot very well. I thought Janelle could have used more development, but maybe she will get it in following books.

How could the performance have been better?

This may be the first time I found an audible narrator so distracting I almost couldn't go on with the story. Her annunciation is just so... off. She over pronounces the "t's" and ends of words. Weirdly, her voices she does for boys sound perfectly natural, but her usual narration for anything but dialogue (i.e. most of the book) is so grating and unnatural. It's almost like she's trying to do an impression of a vampire or something? It was just SO distracting! Plus, you can tell Johnson is a pretty funny writer, even in this book (I know she is from her other ones) but this narrator just can't seem to deliver her writing in any comedic way. Her timing is so off.

I really hope for the second book they get a new narrator.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I had EXTREME frustration at the ending, but the last hour or so made my heart race a little bit. For a YA book, that's pretty damn good.

31 people found this helpful

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Different narrator next time

Overall I liked this story but the narrator drove me NUTS! The are quite a few different male characters and she had the same voice for all of them.

18 people found this helpful

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No conclusion, ends with "to be continued".

Neither mystery is solved by the end of the story. In fact that author introduces yet another mystery into the mix. If your looking for a conclusion to the wonderfully begun mystery at the start of the book, you'll be disappointed. Stevie is obnoxious. I suppose this is because she's "gifted" but I just find her grating and not endearing int eh least. The fact that she looks down on her parents is also irritating. Yes I know the stereotype is for teenager to not think much of her parents but Stevie acts like a bratty three-year-old at times.

43 people found this helpful

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cliff hanger..cant hold on much looonnngger

do not care for writing a story and cutting it in the middle just so you can get 2 books out of it. did not even end in a logical place. trying too hard to be a screen play for some CW show

4 people found this helpful

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  • Hannah Jolliffe
  • 01-14-19

Brilliant story, awful narration

The story is brilliant, definitely worth the hype it received, but the narration is awful! Very much like Siri but with a little more emotion. At times it was fine, but so much of it was read in a robotic staccato drone. It was very off putting and stopped me getting carried away in the story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Edmund Merrywin
  • 01-21-20

Fantastic book but narration a bit werid

The narrator sounded like Siri. But the actual book is amazing! I really enjoyed the way it was written just not the way it was read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-20-19

I’d advise you to read this book

I didn’t get to finish this book and that’s the biggest peeve of mine but the woman who narrated this book just put me right off. She sounds robotic and uninterested and I couldn’t carry it on. Id advise anyone to just read the book unless you can ignore the narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Katrin Duraie
  • 06-29-19

Horrendous narration

The narrator is really bad, almost robot-like. If Siri were to narrate a whole book, this is what it would sound like. The mystery itself was subpar.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Clare Wapshare
  • 05-04-20

A Good Attempt

I feel like I'm being a bit generous with giving this book a full 3 stars but it wasn't as bad as some other books I've read in the past slide I'll give it a pass. I was nervous going into this book. Maureen Johnson wrote one-third of "Let It Snow" and I vowed back then that I would never read another book by her or Lauren Myracle. I liked Maureen's section more but the whole thing about insta-love really put me off. That being said, I have heard nothing but good things about this series of books so decided that I would give it a shot. Enough years have passed between now and the publication of "Let It Snow" for her writing to improve so I was willing to give the audiobook a shot. I was pleasantly surprised at first. I related to Stevie and her relationship with her parents. How her interests were seen as abnormal and worrisome, her intelligence discouraged because it would only lead her to trouble and not a boyfriend. How her political views differed greatly from her conservative parents. Her voice was very robotic and she thought of things in ways that made her feel as though she had landed from another planet, but she was interesting. But of course, Maureen couldn't go 20 minutes without bringing in a needless love interest. I don't like David. I thought he was interesting as a suspect but his and Stevie's romance was pointless and quite frankly not wanted. I didn't go into this story for a contrived Riverdale moment. The mystery was interesting and really the only reason I'll be continuing with the series. The Ellingham Affair, one of the two central mysteries of the book, is the thing that got me through. I am excited to see what happens next with that because I want to know more about Alice, about who was really behind the kidnapping and what happened to this little girl. The modern-day mystery was good but it didn't hold a candle to the 1930s mystery. As a final note, I will say I hope the narrator (if it remains to be the same woman) learns how to read better... And I don't mean that in a nasty way. Her voice went very robotic every now and then. It made sense in the past era scenes but for the modern times, it sounded like she was reading off a page rather than telling me the story. I think I'm a little too used to Stephen Fry narrating things because when he tells a story, he makes the world come to life. When this woman read, it felt like she was slugging through for a simple paycheck. She had potential but damn did she not sell this one well.

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  • Daniela S. Gram
  • 09-05-19

Narration is Questionable

I really love the story and think I have found my new favourite book yet the narration isn't that great. It is robotic and sounds a little like Siri. Otherwise the book is great.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Robyn
  • 07-09-19

Loved the story, couldn't stop listening

I really enjoyed the story, the narration is terrible however I stopped thinking about the weird voice pretty quickly and just enjoyed the book

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  • Sonia
  • 02-13-19

Bad Narration

I loved everything about the book the biggest let down was the narration. The narrator is robotic it’s like listening to siri read! The only thing that kept me listening is the story line. I’ll buy the next book cause I don’t think I can manage listening to her voice any longer.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-20-18

Did not finish

It was so boring and the story lost interest real fast. I did not manage to finish it, maybe i just wasn't in the mood to listen to this book. I tried to come back to this audiobook but it felt like a chore so I ended up not finishing it.

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  • Brenda
  • 08-11-19

Great book, terrible narration.

Kate Rudd narrated ‘The Fault in our Stars’ and I loved it! She did an excellent job at conveying tone and character, so my thoughts are that either she was having a bad week when she recorded this, or the director was an idiot. She often stresses words in a very robotic or non-native English way and it’s super jarring, even speeding it up didn’t help. I will be returning the audiobook after writing this. I often use audiobooks to go along with a physical book, for times that I need my hands or eyes for something else, so I have finished the book and it is great! I can’t wait to get onto the next one, I feel that the characters are likeable and the plot is really fun. I think the characters are lacking a little in description and sometimes I had a hard time imagining what they looked like because I didn’t know their hair colour or even skin colour in some cases. You do find out later, so it’s not the worst thing, just a small criticism. I do recommend the physical copy.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Bel
  • 07-05-20

The narrator sounds so bored I was too

I wanted to like this book, I know so many people who loved it but the narration is so unusual, so flat and monotonous it out me to sleep almost without fail even though it's a mystery! when even speeding it up failed, I gave up.