Review: The Box in the Woods

As a huge fan of the Truly Devious series, as soon as I heard another book was coming, I knew I needed it in my life. Luckily for me, the incredible team at Harper 360 sent me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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.

TW: death, drug use, murder, violence, gore

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Box in the Woods is an utterly addictive read that adds a wonderful new dimension to the world of Truly Devious and yet another fiendish twist in Stevie’s story. 

I don’t think words can adequately describe how excited I was when Maureen Johnson announced a new installment in the Truly Devious world. Although the Truly Devious mystery is firmly wrapped up, there’s plenty of room for Stevie to encounter new mysteries and showcase her sleuthing skills once more. The Box in the Woods cements this idea and demonstrates again how Johnson is a master of the YA mystery genre. 

If you haven’t already treated yourself to the delight that is the Truly Devious trilogy, I would highly recommend you go and lose yourself in that twisty mystery. However, The Box in the Woods does work as a standalone to the series. As a little refresher, there are some newspaper articles at the start of the book. These were a really good reminder of the core of Stevie’s character and the essence of the Truly Devious mystery, though there are no spoilers for anyone who hasn’t picked up that trilogy. If more books did this, it would be a really good idea as it just helps immerse you that much more into the story. 

Right from the start, you’re totally wrapped up in the mysterious atmosphere Johnson expertly weaves. The opening scene is so impactful and sets the mystery up really well. It’s dark and feels like something straight out of a horror film. The more details you uncover about the case, the more apt this comparison seems. This is a genuinely creepy and unnerving book. The tension reaches out its icy fingers and never lets you go. Even after finishing the book, the plot and characters were firmly imprinted into my mind and I kept going over all the little clues and details I had previously missed. Personally, this means all the hallmarks of a good mystery are met. It’s also the type of book that you just have to binge. The pages flew right past as I had to discover the dark heart of this tale. 

It’s a compact and fully wrapped-up mystery, full of layers. As ever with Johnson, there’s plenty of fiendish twists and turns to uncover. It’s always excellent to be tripped up by surprises and reveals you never saw coming, but it is equally validating to have your suspicions confirmed. Either way, a good mystery makes for rich re-reading, as you pick up all the little hints and details that build to the big reveal. The Box in the Woods is all of this and more. Exploring mysteries across the time periods, with the events of the past informing the deadly events of the present, is a hallmark of this world that makes the series stand out from the competition. It’s in the tiny details that play out across periods and the way it feels like a classic whodunnit. The collision of present and past makes for fascinating viewing. 

It would be remiss to leave out the wonderful characters from this review. As always, Stevie and her rag-tag friendship group shine from the pages. Their voices and personalities are so distinctive, memorable and authentic. You can’t help but fall in love with them all. That’s not to say that they’re flawless, as their character arcs allow for mistakes and growth. Stevie is a fantastic protagonist, with her sharp mind and witty comments on the world around her. Reading through her perspective is so immersive and relatable. 

The Box in the Woods is a spectacular addition to an already strong series with a mystery that will leave you demanding more.

7 thoughts on “Review: The Box in the Woods

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