First Lines: “Has anyone seen Dottie?” Miss Nelson asked.
I love Maureen Johnson, from her personality on social media to her writing style. She’s fantastic. But I let this book live on my shelf for a little while because I was scared to read it. When you love the first book in a series so much…sometimes the 2nd doesn’t live up to the hype and I was terrified of that happening with this one.
*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*
All Stevie ever wanted to do was solve the Ellingham cold case. Instead, a classmate was killed, she gets pulled out of school, and she’s forced to leave her friends. At least away from the school she won’t have to talk to David–the boy who kissed her and the boy who happens to be the son of her arch enemy, politician Edward King. So it’s just Stevie’s luck when King shows up with a deal: return to the school but play nice with David so he doesn’t stir up trouble for King. Stevie knows this is her chance, even if it’s a lot like making a deal with the Devil himself. She knows she’s close to cracking the Ellingham case…but all her secrets and riddles are bound to hurt someone…
This book kind of felt like the filler book that it is. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the crap out of it because I did. But in terms of action, suspense, etc., it didn’t go to the level it could have. And part of that, I think, was knowing this was the 2nd book and there was a 3rd coming. So I already knew, thanks to the first book, to be a little disappointed in the ending.
I still loved Stevie, but I felt like the rest of the characters played very little role in this. Janelle, Nate, even David really weren’t in the book all that much. In fact, I’m pretty sure Security Guard Larry was in the book more than Janelle. (Which isn’t a terrible thing–I like Larry. He knows what’s up.) But I loved the characters so much in the first book…and this just didn’t have them playing as vital of a role.
And I missed how truly bizarre the first book was. Part of that is because of Ellie’s eccentricities, which didn’t really come into play much in this book. I love that Maureen can craft such incredibly quirky traits into a lovable character and a story that makes sense because of its weirdness, but this felt tame compared to some of her more recent books.
But the mystery…the plot thickens. I expected nothing less. The Ellingham Murders are as fiendish and dark as ever, even as we start peeling away layers of secrecy. I was sufficiently creeped out going to bed for at least one night while I read this, so it definitely gets under your skin. And I love that Stevie is so clever and that the clues are so subtle. It’s very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s style, no matter how much this book references Sherlock Holmes. Hercule Poirot all the way.
Anyway, I did enjoy this. Not as much as I loved the first book, but here’s hoping the next book is that magical finale I’m desperately hoping it is.