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Hello Hello! How are you?

Today I’m bringing you another review on my blog as I’m slowly catching up with the review notes sitting in my reading journal! This time it’s for Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson which was also a book I buddy read, but this time with Candyce from The Book Dutchesses. We’ve been following this series since last year and thoroughly enjoyed all the books so far, and this fifth instalment in the Truly Devious series was a really enjoyable one (except for one element at the end that we did not understand!).

Keep on reading to find out what I thought about this book!


Title: Nine Liars (#5 Truly Devious)

Author: Maureen Johnson

Published: 27th of December 2022 — Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardback — 449 pages

 

SYNOPSIS

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.

MY REVIEW

Trigger warnings: death (mentioned and on scene), murder, attempted murder, blood, gore, vivid scenes of dead bodies, cheating, drug abuse, alcohol abuse. 

“Death. Plague. Destruction. Torture. Beheadings. Merry Old England.” 

Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson is a YA mystery and the fifth instalment in the Truly Devious series that I have been buddy reading with Candyce from The Book Dutchesses. When this fifth book was announced for December 2022 we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a copy and we started it early in 2023 but with all my studies and thesis research we put it on hold until I was done. We finally started it again and finished it in June and I was so glad we got to read it together! I think there will even be a sixth instalment, and I really hope so, especially the way that ending was chucked at us!

The Truly Devious series follows Stevie Bell and her gang of friends who all go to school at the Ellingham Academy in Vermont. In the first book she managed to crack the case of a century old mystery right on the school grounds and linked to the school’s founder, and in each book since she has been able to figure out the mystery/murder/kidnapping, thanks to her friends! I’ve loved Stevie and her friend group from the very start of this series, so as you can probably guess, I was so, so excited to get to read more of their adventures.

In this book, Stevie and the gang are on a study abroad in London and in the hopes of Stevie and David spending some time together. While in London, David introduces them all to one of his school friends who happens to have an aunt who witnessed/was part of a group where a gruesome double murder occurred in an old English manor house 20 years ago. The catch is that the woman (Angela) thinks that one of her friends committed the murder, only she is too terrified to say anything much to Stevie.

When this book starts, the introductory chapter is set in the past, on the day that the double murder occurred. We get to meet “The Nine” a theatrical friend group who have just finished their studies at Cambridge and are spending a final week together before they all go their separate ways in life. Throughout the book, you get a keen sense of just how close and how tied together the whole group was, as they did everything together, shared everything (even relationships) and were basically a wild group during their time together at Cambridge University and in their theatre troop. I loved going back in time and reading about this group of friends and slowly seeing all their secrets unravel. I love how Maureen Johnson always managed to mix the past and the present so seamlessly and I particularly enjoyed the other formats included in the story such as newspaper cuttings or police reports/interviews. I felt like the Nine’s cold case was a really intriguing one and the dual POV and timeline was also captivating. As Stevie was learning about elements in the present, I was trying to piece together any clues or tidbits from the past and it was a great way to bring the conclusion of how the murders occurred, why, and who committed them. The chapters from the past were set at Merryweather, one of the Nine’s family estate and I really liked the atmosphere that the author created around this house and the grounds. While it was described as a beautiful building with beautiful grounds, it still felt ominous because of what happened there. The interactions between this friend group was also really interesting to read about and it slowly helped me try to put everything together. Although I have to say that my theories were way off and I never expected the murderer to be that person, so kudos to the author for always keeping me on my toes and surprising me at the very last hurdle!

As I mentioned before, Stevie and her friends are all on a study abroad in London and I loved reading about the historical places they visited and learn more about London through their eyes. I’ve been a few times and liked each visit, so it definitely made me want to go back soon. The writing style was so seamless that it felt like I was travelling through London and going on these tours with them, it’s a really immersive book.

I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about Stevie’s process in discovering what really happened at Merryweather that fated night in 1995. It’s always great watching her put the clues together and seeing how her mind slots the puzzle pieces together to discover the truth. She is a great teenage detective and I hope that there will be many more books in this series!

However, I have one negative point to make and I also have to admit that it made me drop this down by one whole star. I can’t go into too much detail unless I give away some spoilers and since this is the 5th book in the series, I have to try to not say anything too spoilery! So, the main reason I dropped this down a star was because of something that happens between Stevie and David at the end of the book which makes no sense whatsoever when put into perspective with the previous books and their relationship and both Candyce and I were very much surprised and unhappy about the way this story ended. I’m glad there will be a sixth instalment in the series because it honestly cannot end that way and I was majorly put out by that conclusion to the fifth instalment.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING

Overall, I really enjoyed this book until the final chapter where it somehow all went to shit (just for that one detail I mentioned above). That was my only negative comment about the book, but I really hope the next book will explain things and let it all redeem itself because I’m very unhappy about that ending. And the worst thing about that ending is that it had absolutely nothing to do with Stevie unveiling the culprit of the murders and revealing all the intricate facets of the cold case which was amazing and so well plotted!

So, apart from that really bad ending, I thought that the rest of the book was really well-written, it was well-plotted and well-executed and the author surprised me yet again with the reveal and the explanation of the murders all those years ago. I thought that Stevie’s reveal was really clever and really enjoyed seeing her explain how she put all the clues together.

I gave this book 4 stars (and yes the 1 star was lost only because of that ending), and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fifth instalment in the Truly Devious series — especially if you cut out those final chapters which disappointed and confused me a lot.

If you love YA murder mysteries, teenage detectives, a great rag-tag friend group, London and it’s history, and lots of great atmosphere and plotting, then I highly recommend this book, as long as you read the whole series in order to understand all the intricacies of this world and these characters! 

ASPECTS RATING

Atmosphere – 7

Start – 8

Pacing – 7

Ending – 3

Characters – 7.5

Theme – 7

Style –7

Total = 46.5


That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

See you soon, stay safe,

Ellie xx

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