My murder mystery midsummer truly reached a zenith with the completion of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy. I had first read — and thoroughly enjoyed — the first entry last year, and I finished it feeling something I had not felt toward a series in quite some time: an eagerness to get to the sequel straightaway.
Despite my excitement, that did not happen. It’s that same old story: other books got in the way. But the news for the Knives Out follow-up that began to come out out in May once again sparked my interest in the genre (the original film did the same — hence me picking up Truly Devious in the first place).
If you’ve followed my Instagram stories at all during these past few months then you already have an idea of how much fun I’ve had reading these books. They hit many of my targets: quirky, clever characters who are as ridiculous as they are resourceful; snug, well-thought out settings; atmosphere in abundance. All aspects that pretty much guarantee my enjoyment. I also admired the way Johnson was able to combine the tense, thrilling facets of true crime narratives with the more classic and considerably more chill vibes of the mystery genre.
Mainly though, I loved how, with the character of Stevie (our tenacious protagonist), Johnson explored the matter of anxiety with a perspective that can only come from intimate, immediate experience with the disorder: candid and sincere, but so full of empathy.
Mental health is health, and health is always a situation in flux. Many, many people have anxiety and depression, or other issues. It’s just a part of life for them. For me, anxiety has been an issue, and the way I have worked with it is to accept it as a part of me. I do stuff with it. It’s just there.
If I had anything in the way of criticism is that the conclusion did leave a bit to be desired. This may seem like a crucial misstep, but Johnson’s writing is so damn clever and compelling that it more than makes up for it. But in any case, it was the journey that made the whole experience worthwhile for me, and I will readily trail along in whatever other jaunts Johnson decides to send her stalwart sleuth next.