Saturday, October 16, 2021

Book Review: The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods

Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious (Book 4)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (June 15, 2021)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: Stevie Bell solved the case of Truly Devious and is now back home for the summer and working at a local Deli when she receives an intriguing email. Carson Buchwald is the owner and founder of Box Box and is also a true crime aficionado. He has recently purchased a camp outside of Barlow Corners, New York, which was the site of an unsolved murder of four young camp counselors in 1978. His goal is to find out what happened and make a podcast about the crime.

Stevie is interested, despite some reservations: Outside? Snakes? Camping? But she agrees to go if she can bring her friends along. Janelle and Nate are eager to go with her. Janelle's significant other is spending the summer in Vietnam and Nate is willing to do anything to be able to avoid writing the sequel to the book that made him famous as a fourteen-year-old. Only Stevie's boyfriend David isn't able to join them. After being disinherited by his disgraced Senator father, he's found a job traveling and registering voters.

This case isn't like Stevie's first. There are still people in Barlow Corners who were alive when the murders occurred. Allison Abbott is the sister of Sabrina. She's made it her mission to keep her sister's memory alive and to also recover her missing diary. Patty Horne who runs the local bakery should have been with her friends Diane McClure, Todd Cooper, Eric Wilde and Sabrina Abbott when they went into the woods to smoke some marijuana but was under house arrest after being caught making out with her boyfriend Greg Dempsey. Shawn Greenvale who was Sabrina's ex-boyfriend is still in town and managing the family business. Sally Marks who ran the camp back in 1978 is still in town. So is Paul Penhale who is a local veterinarian and whose eleven-year old brother Michael died in a hit-and-run accident just a few months before the teens were murdered. Almost everyone believes that the car was driven by Todd Cooper and the accident was covered up because his father was the town's mayor.

As Stevie investigates, she soon finds out that there is someone in town who doesn't want the crime to be solved. Allison has a fatal "accident" when she falls from the lookout point she stopped at everyday when she did her run. Stevie and Nate are shot at and are forced to jump from another overlook into the lake to get away from the shooter. 

But Stevie, anxiety-prone and obsessive, does solve the crime with the help of her friends and despite the "help" of Carson, 

This was a great, fast-paced story filled with interesting characters. I really like Stevie who seems like a real person with real issues. Her friends, including David who appears at an opportune time, are also intriguing people. 

The story has humor but is still filled with tension. I hope Stevie has more adventures.

Favorite Quote:
(The only thing worse than saying "I want to go work at a murder camp" was probably "I have been studying the persuasive techniques of Charles Manson." So this was one she was keeping to herself.)
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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