This is being published as the fourth book in a series, but it really isn’t. This is a stand alone story that has nothing to do with the Truly Devious murders in the first three books. This is just another mystery for amateur sleuth Stevie Bell and her friends to solve. You won’t encounter any spoilers for the first books here.
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Summary from NetGalley:
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.
ARC provided by Harper Collins via NetGalley for an honest review.
It was so much fun seeing Stevie and the gang hanging out and solving another mystery together. And this was quite the mystery. This one really had me puzzled until almost the end when Stevie did an old time detective’s reveal to a crowded room. But honestly I think Stevie was stumped up until she got her hands on some crucial evidence, which in retrospect was almost all of the evidence needed to convince the murderer to come forward.
Stevie was still Stevie, but it was nice to see her out of Ellingham and using her detective skills again on a more recent unsolved mystery. She was a trooper when it came to being a counselor at a kids summer camp, although she just was an assistant to Janelle who is a crafting queen. This allowed her some freedom to roam about and question people without much constraint. Janelle wasn’t as involved in this mystery as she was in the other books, but she was a good sounding board for Stevie. Nate really was the one who had Stevie’s back this time. He was so funny at times with one camper who was a big fan of his book. David is also there, but he was more of a distraction than a help for most of his scenes. Still I do like them together.
This is a totally new mystery that is solved by the end of the book. It is well done, with lots of red herrings and misdirections thrown into the mix to keep you guessing. The format of the book does follow the previous books in that we have some chapters told from the perspective of some of the victims and others from the time of the murders. This happens at the beginning of the book and doesn’t carry on past the first third of the book. The setting of the summer camp was perfect, and you really felt the spookiness of the woods and the cabins right along with Stevie.
I was a little surprised when I saw that there was going to be another book, mostly because the previous mystery had been solved and was done. But I was happy also, because I certainly wasn’t ready to leave the company of Stevie and her friends. The ending hinted that there might be at least one more book in the making and I really hope there is as I enjoy these books and these characters.
Although this is a stand alone and could be read with out having knowledge from the previous books, it probably is better if if you had. There isn’t a whole lot of character development in this book as these are pretty well established in the first three books.