Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Interview with Maureen Johnson for The Hand on The Wall

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3)

by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 21st 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
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New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

Can you briefly describe the TRULY DEVIOUS series and its characters, what’s happening on THE HAND ON THE WALL?

Truly Devious is about Stevie Bell, a true-crime aficionado who wants to be a detective. She’s come to Ellingham Academy, which is one of America’s most prestigious and unusual schools, with the hopes of solving the 1936 kidnapping of the founder’s wife and daughter. The kidnappers sent a mocking riddle signed Truly, Devious. This is an extremely famous case, considered the crime of the century, so the idea that a high school student is going to solve it eighty years later seems absurd to many. While Stevie is at her new school, some strange things happen, including an updated version of the Truly Devious letter being projected on to her wall at night. When a fellow student dies in a freak accident, Stevie is convinced it is murder and sets out on her own investigation that combines past and present. As this investigation continues over the books, Stevie will uncover things that have been buried for many decades, and others will die. In The Hand on the Wall, Stevie discovers how past and present are intertwined, and everything will come to an explosive conclusion up on the mountain.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Possibly Nate, the writer who is haunted by the fact that everyone wants him to finish his second book. For reasons.

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

The story comes out of my love of mystery and out of some classic crime cases. I wanted to take some of the things I love and have loved about many mystery novels—like the remote mansion as both setting and character, the amateur detective, the analogue clues that you can touch and see. I wanted to make a proper game that readers could play along with.

If you could choose one song to describe each books in the series, which ones would it be?

For Truly Devious, Digital Witness by St. Vincent 

For The Vanishing Stair, Mistake by Fiona Apple

For The Hand on the Wall, let’s go with Bad Guy, because we are going to find out WHODUNNIT.

From the TRULY DEVIOUS series, which book...

A. Has your favourite cover?

I truthfully like them all, but maybe The Hand on the Wall. I really like green.

B. Was the most difficult to write?

The Vanishing Stair. The middle is always hardest for me.

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

I get asked this a lot, and I genuinely have no idea. It’s just not how I think.

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Ideally, you’ll want to be snowed in for the last book, and you’ll want something hot to drink. Hot chocolate? Something stronger? 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THE HAND ON THE WALL?

There is a giant world of classic mysteries out there. The British Library Crime Classics series is amazing—all of these great mysteries from the 30s and 40s that fell out of print, they’ve brought them back. Get your country house murder on!

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Starting. Or finishing. And that middle bit.

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan). Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.


  1. I enjoy mysteries and thrillers, so this book is already on my TBR.

  2. I love stories of schools full of eerie or wicked doings, and this sounds like a fun work in that genre!