The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

(Last Updated On: June 17, 2019)


About the Book

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books  |  Release Date: January 22, 2019  |  Pages: 376
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery  |  Format: eBook  |  Source: Purchased

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

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My Review

“In life, the murderer is anyone. The reasons, the methods, the circumstances – the paths to becoming a murderer are as numerous as the stars.”

The Vanishing Stair was one of my most anticipated sequels for 2019 after falling absolutely in love with Truly Devious last fall. I was really excited to see what happened after that incredibly rude cliffhanger and hoped to get more answers in this installment. 🕵️ I am pleased to say that we got some much-needed answers (& some new questions!), as well as more actual investigating, but overall this one fell into the middle book syndrome for me. It was enjoyable and I will finish the series, but if I am being honest I could have done without the first 40% of this book.

My friend Hamad @ Book Prescription summed up my feelings pretty well in his review:

“The Vanishing Stair was what I expected it to be; an unnecessary bridge to the third book and this whole series could have been a duology.”

The book opens up with Stevie back home in Pittsburgh, her parents having removed her from Ellingham Academy after news got out about what happened – and Stevie’s involvement – at the end of the book. She’s trying to readjust to life back home while still obsessing over the Truly Devious case, but we as readers feel the same disconnect she does once she leaves the Academy. Lucky for everyone she gets back into Ellingham, but not without strings. And the longer she keeps that truth hidden, the worse it is going to be for her.

“Murderers aren’t a type. They’re anyone.”

I got 40% into the book before any real investigating started to take place, which was a lot more of a disappointing pace than in the first book. I feel like there was a lot of repetition and reiteration in the narrative of The Vanishing Stair, and in my opinion, there is little of value that was added in the first half of the book to where the mysteries uncovered here could have been part of book 1 and it may have been stronger for it.

I was rather disappointed with the “secrets for getting back into Ellingham and the subsequent “fallout” plotline. The conflict made little sense to me and I was left wondering why she even kept it a secret to begin with. (For conflict, that’s why.)

I will say that this series has some amazing anxiety representation in it, and I really appreciate how Stevie’s anxiety is almost a character itself in this book. As a person who suffers from chronic and crippling anxiety, it means a lot to me to see it depicted with care on the page and have it normalized.

Despite my not really enjoying myself for almost half of the book, once the investigation and clues begin to fall into place I was absolutely hooked! I really enjoyed how everything was unraveled slowly, and you can tell that Johnson has plotted the main points of the overall mystery with care. I’ll admit that I guessed the big twist, but that isn’t uncommon for me to do so it never really lessens my reading experience. I felt like the ending made sense and I am excited to see how things wrap up!

Overall, while this wasn’t a perfect read for me it was definitely an enjoyable addition to the Truly Devious trilogy! You’ll learn the solution to Ellingham’s final riddle in this one, but there’s still more of this mystery to uncover. Looking forward to seeing how this one ends!

REPRESENTATION: anxiety rep, nonbinary rep
CONTENT WARNINGS: mutilation, murder, loss of a loved one

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Hâf

    February 12, 2019 at 8:57 AM

    I’m hoping to read the first book soon!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 13, 2019 at 8:55 AM

      Oooh, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  2. thebookprescription

    February 12, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    Thanks Kaleena!
    It feels amazing to be quoted!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 13, 2019 at 9:00 AM

      Honestly I couldn’t say it any better than you did, so thank YOU! I am really excited to see how this series ends though, it’s a shame we have to wait a year!

      1. thebookprescription

        February 13, 2019 at 10:46 AM

        Aww, you’re welcome!
        I guess by the number of books that will keep us occupied at the time being, the next book will be here in no time!

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          February 15, 2019 at 8:27 AM

          That is VERY TRUE! And I probably won’t re-read the books next time either, that may make for a better reading experience for me.

  3. Fran @ The Ramblebee

    February 13, 2019 at 1:43 AM

    omg this has non-binary rep?! I’m going to have to look into this series!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 13, 2019 at 9:04 AM

      It does, there is a side character that identifies as they (Vi)! They have a bit of a bigger presence in book 2, but I think the enby rep is handled pretty well.

  4. January 2019 Book Haul // the month I kind of behaved – Reader Voracious Blog

    February 13, 2019 at 10:28 AM

    […] Read My Review of Book #1 Read My Review of Book #2 […]

  5. singerofstories

    February 13, 2019 at 4:52 PM

    Oh mah goodness, I very badly want to read this trilogy! HOWEVER…’ve pretty much convinced me to wait until the third book comes out to begin my reading. 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 15, 2019 at 8:40 AM

      Nooooooooo! Read it noooow so you can suffer with me! The worst part honestly is over, because the horrible cliffhanger is in book 1. Things come to a decent end in book 2 but there’s more to uncover, but I am less like OMG I NEED MORE NOW. But at any rate, whenever you read it, I hope you enjoy it!

  6. La Femme Livresque | A Reader To Whatever End

    February 13, 2019 at 9:05 PM

    I haven’t read read any books by Maureen Johnson yet but I really want to read Truly Devious, though I think I’ll wait. 🙈

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 15, 2019 at 8:49 AM

      This is the only series by Maureen Johnson that I’ve read, and I have been enjoying it! I really can’t wait to see how it all ends. I hope you enjoy the series when you decide to pick it up!

  7. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    February 15, 2019 at 5:48 PM

    awww I’ve been so excited about this one since my library hold finally came in, so it’s disappointing to hear that it’s a slow start. unnecessary lack of communication is definitely a super frustrating trope, especially where parents are involved. (can you tell I’ve been reading about too many dysfunctional families recently? 😅)

    glad to hear that it’s still a worthwhile read though, and that we do get the answer to the stair riddle haha. and hopefully the last book will be as good as the first!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 21, 2019 at 6:23 PM

      Okay listen, maybe you won’t be as annoyed by the first 40% of the book as I was??? Most of my friends loved this book as much/more than Truly Devious, so I am interested in hearing your thoughts when you finally read it! The stair riddle answer is brilliant, and I wish I had guessed it’s solution hehe

      1. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

        February 22, 2019 at 8:26 PM

        ooooooh i am very intrigued 👀

  8. waytoofantasy

    February 17, 2019 at 12:10 PM

    I really appreciate a story that nails anxiety the right way. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Maureen Johnson that I can remember but may have to keep this series in mind. Great review!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 22, 2019 at 9:17 AM

      Honestly I can’t think of many other books that address anxiety, let alone this well! Beneath the Citadel is the only one I can think of other than this series, but I didn’t like that book very much. I hope you enjoy the series if you decide to pick it up!

  9. February in Review – Reader Voracious Blog

    March 3, 2019 at 9:00 AM

    […] The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson: this book was full of so much filler, ugh. I swear that I could have done without the first 40% of the book! I actually re-read Truly Devious right before diving into this one and reading these two back-to-back was as exercise in patience. I truly believe that this should have been a duology or standalone; however, I was pleased that at least we got some answers in this installment. I’ll read the final book when it’s released since I am invested and need to know, but I’m kind of meh.| 📖 Read my full review […]

  10. Courtney's Bountiful Books

    April 8, 2019 at 11:09 PM

    I just finished reading this and I’m literally sitting here with my jaw hanging open! The cliffhanger 😱
    I dont know how I’ll be able to think of anything else until 2020.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      April 18, 2019 at 4:55 PM

      SERIOUSLY! It’s been a few months and to be honest I am still angry at the cliffhanger. I need to know how it ends. NOW.

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