Title: The box in the Woods
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #4
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 48
(see below for breakdown)
After solving the case of Truly Devious, Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.
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.
Stevie Bell is back! I really really enjoyed the Truly Devious Trilogy. I need to acutally publish my reviews on all three books as apparently I haven’t done that, I think a re-read may be in order.
This book takes us out of Ellingham Academy and instead offers us a summer standalone mystery that is just perfect for the season. Inducing thoughts of those old summer teen slasher films perfectly it does a great job of walking us through the 1978 mystery combined with Stevie working though all the various barriers of such a long cold case, a strict camp coordinator, a douchey patron , all the troubles being teen brings in terms of love and friendships. This book can be read as a standalone. It does have a little recap of events that happened in the first Trilogy but that doesn’t actually contain spoilers. Its more a little memory jog for those that have read it and a bit of a teaser for those that haven’t.
The 1978 elements were awesome. I adored the number of Fleetwood Mac references. My folks were big Fleetwood fans, I grew up with that music and could hear the Rumours album every time it was mentioned. I am also a Led Zeppelin fan so again the music mentioned in the 1978 scenes really evoked the atmosphere really well (even if the 70’s was well before even my time). Stevie is just an around great character, her worry and anxiety and her imposter syndrome are so easy to identify with. You can’t not spur her on to solve the crime. We got a lot more of Nate with his chronic writers block, Janelle with awesome organization skills and love him or hate him David is also a pretty integral part of the mystery solving team. I really like the different dynamics to the friendships in this group.
The mystery it’s self is so well plotted, we get some awesome twists and turns, a couple which really really surprised me. It is also just outlandish enough. These books take more of the slightly off the wall mysteries approach rather than a true crime approach and I love it. I love that we get a parlour scene where all the evidence, even bits we thought were trivial are pulled together into an elaborate plot. It just makes me smile.
Overall, a fun and fast read, with an interesting mystery that combined the feel of a cozy Agatha Christie style narrative with a teen slasher movie murder.