The Hand on the Wall

The Hand on the Wall

Book - 2020 | First edition.
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After another death, Stevie must navigate mysterious riddles and track down a missing David at the same time a massive storm forces her to confront a killer.
Publisher: New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2020]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062338112
Characteristics: 369 pages : map ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

The deaths at Ellingham Academy keep piling up, and just when Stevie thinks she’s figured out the identity of Truly Devious, another accident occurs. This suspenseful finale to the masterfully written mystery trilogy will keep you guessing with its twists and turns until the final page.

From the critics

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May 05, 2021

It had been a few months since I read the first two, when, post-COVID library closure and subsequent reopening, the final book came in.

It was a really great read. I remembered thinking the second book was more about spoiled, rich teenage angst than unraveling the 1930s murders of Iris and Alice, but this one delivered on the "cozy" mystery genre.

You learn Dr. Fenton did have evidence that would blow the case wide-open. But someone blows her up before she can spill it, by turning on the gas from her stove, and when she lights up a cigarette -- kaboom! Her nephew barely escapes the fire.

David, Stevie's I-can't-help-myself-from-being-attracted-to not-boyfriend, pays someone to beat him up and post the video on YouTube. He disappears from school before his manipulative father / Congressman can yank him, and doesn't reappear until the last third of the book, but this is a good thing. For one, it means Stevie can think.

Stevie visits the art collective where Ellie did a lot of her art, and she learns the hand she saw projected on the wall of her dorm room is far more important than she initially thought.

Interspersed with the modern mystery are POVs from the 1930s, particularly security man George Marsh, and you learn Alice was not Iris' daughter. She was adopted after she was born in Switzerland. You learn she's killed by the kidnappers while trying to make an opportunity for Alice to escape, and then they keep Alice, eventually dropping her off with a couple in a nearby valley.

With help from a classmate, Stevie discovers a journal that confirms her belief the Truly Devious poem had nothing to do with Iris and Alice's kidnappings. The journal contains rough drafts of the original Truly Devious poem / kidnapping letter by two former students at the school.

It's unclear if Stevie ever figures out what Marsh tracks down about Iris and Alice's deaths (because there's simply no way she could -- she wasn't there, and you, the reader, only know because you get his POV), but she's certain she's solved enough of the 1930s case to call it solved -- but she doesn't tell anyone.

Then a huge snowstorm moves in, forcing the school to evacuate. David shows up again, asking them to help him foil his corrupt father's latest political aspiration, a run for the presidency, and Stevie and her band of friends stay behind. They're snowed in with Ellie and Hayes' murderer.

I won't spoil the ending, just know it's great, although the character who's revealed to be the killer was not active in the books, hardly at all.

A great conclusion (except guess what? there's a 4th book out, now!! I honestly don't know if I'll read it.) to the mystery and a fantastic example of a story told in multiple POVs to stunning effect!

Sep 28, 2020

Dr. Irene Fenton has been killed in a house fire that is being called accidental, although, Stevie questions this. Stevie is told that Dr. Fenton's nephew, Hunter is going to be allowed to stay in Ellie's old room until he can find a place of his own because "the school feels bad for him." When Janelle's semester project is sabotaged injuring a student, and with a major blizzard approaching, the school staff decides to send the students home, but when David returns to school with revelations about his father, he convinces Stevie and her friends to stay and help him find a way to derail his father's campaign for President. Meanwhile Stevie is on a quest of her own.
The Hand on the Wall brings all of the clues together and answers the questions of the 1936 kidnapping/murder as well as the recent deaths connected with the school. Stevie proves herself to be the extraordinary detective that has been suggested throughout the three books in the series, bringing together all of the parties in a ballroom for an Agatha Christie style ending where the detective reviews the clues and reveals the culprit. Overall, this is the very satisfying culmination of a wonderful young adult whodunnit series. I've read that there is to be another book in the series, starting a new mystery for Stevie to solve. I'm looking forward to it.

I feel like I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I’m full of emotion at finishing the series, but I don’t feel the same “oh my GOD THIS WAS INSANE” intensity that I did upon finishing books one and two.

Stevie Bell has lived through catastrophe after catastrophe at Ellingham Academy. Hayes, Ellie, and now Fenton are all dead, supposedly of accidents, but Stevie is unconvinced, sure that something bigger is going on. At the same time, she thinks she’s cracked the Truly Devious case: she knows who killed Iris Ellingham, and she thinks she might be onto what happened to Alice. With a massive snowstorm closing in, David still MIA, and more accidents looming, time is running short for Stevie - who will have to reveal her findings, or let everything that’s happened become just another Ellingham unsolved mystery.

There was so much set up with these books, and really, the core of all of this is such a tight premise. There are three mysteries that need to be solved: the Truly Devious note, the disappearance of Iris and Alice, and the deaths at the present-day Academy. Basically, the 1930’s mysteries were solved in book two, which I think is why I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed right now. I wanted...more. More twists, more unexpected turns. There are some details revealed here that made me gasp, but they didn’t really get to me like the ones in the first two books did.

The present day mystery is where this book focuses, and it’s also the one I cared about the least overall. Sure, I wanted to know who was responsible for these deaths, and the accidents that seem to be all too frequent at Ellingham, but it didn’t nag at me like the Alice and Iris plot did. And though we find out the fate of Alice here, I just...I don’t know. I wanted it to be juicier. More unexpected. It was devastating, don’t get me wrong, but I so badly wanted something thrown at me out of left field. And the ultimate conclusion of the modern day mystery was somewhat predictable, which I did NOT expect after the first two books.

A major strong point for this series is its characters. Stevie is such a great protagonist; her anxiety is ever present but the ways she works through it are inspiring and comforting, somehow. Like if this girl can do it, so can we, and none of us can blame ourselves for our biology. I felt like the others had less of a role here, and I really don’t care for David, which affected my investment in the romantic subplot for sure. He just rubs me the wrong way, and he did even more so in this last instalment. I wanted more of Nate and Stevie and Jenelle, doing their thing, being hilarious and relatable, and that was harder to come by this time.

I had such an intense desire for this book, and I think that anticipation coupled with the long time in between books two and three were what have left me feeling a little bit more lukewarm this time. This series is a sparkly gem in a sea of mediocre YA, though; the pacing, the plot, and the characters are all so extremely well done. I still highly recommend the entire series to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, or good YA in general. Overall, it’s unexpected, original, and so much fun, even if this last one didn’t quite live up to the first two in my eyes.

Apr 01, 2020

I like it.

JCLDawnaO Mar 24, 2020

This is the final book in the Truly Devious series, if you haven't read the first two books do it before reading this book.

Stevie has been attending the Ellingham Academy, a prestigious private school in Vermont built in the 1930's, and she's there to study the mystery of the kidnappings and potential deaths of the founder's wife and daughter shortly after the school opened. And she's pretty sure she has it all figured out as to who did it. But of course some untimely deaths have happened while she's been at Ellingham Academy, including the deaths of classmates and an accident that happened in town. This book is full of riddles and mystery, as the first two books were, and perhaps Stevie can solve it all.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Mar 20, 2020

Great culmination to this mystery trilogy! Start with Truly Devious.

PimaLib_ChristineR Mar 03, 2020

If you've been waiting for this book like I have, what anyone writes here probably won't sway you one way or the other but let me say: it was totally worth the wait.

Stevie Bell is at Ellingham Academy to work on her big project: solving the case of the Ellingham kidnapping and murder, an unsolved case nearly 100-year-old as famous as the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping. But through the last two books in the trilogy, it has become clear that Stevie will have to figure out the new murders that follow in her wake. At the end of book two, The Vanishing Stair, Stevie’s mentor Dr. Fenton has died in a house fire. With two of her roommates already dead under mysterious circumstances, Stevie has a lot on her hands.

Johnson’s mystery is pitch perfect for lovers of the classic style of Agatha Christie. Stevie even gets her “I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve called you together today” moment. Johnson includes a wide variety of representation in her characters without anyone feeling like a token. Even her secondary characters are well-drawn and realistic. Besides from the engrossing central mystery, The Hand on the Wall deals realistically with mental health, but also has a healthy dose of humor.

I had some problems with David, both in the plotting and in how his character developed, but I’m not going to let that stop me from highly recommending this book and the whole series to anyone who loves a good mystery, not just readers of YA.

Gina_Vee Feb 12, 2020

The trilogy was great, and this was a great third book. The mystery is written in such a way that you do have to keep guessing about what happened. I loved the foreshadowing and flashbacks involved. I also like that the love stories included in the book don't overshadow the mystery feel of the book.

Feb 06, 2020

An excellent mystery I could not put it down and a great continuation of the previous books in the series.


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Gina_Vee Feb 12, 2020

Gina_Vee thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Gina_Vee Feb 12, 2020

Coarse Language: There's still some cursing in the third book of the trilogy but a lot less than there was in the second book.


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