“The other, louder part of her mind told her that something was wrong, wrong, wrong.”
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson is the fourth instalment in the Truly Devious series, although you could 100% read it as a standalone.
After solving the Ellingham cold case, Stephanie “Stevie” Bell finds herself bored… that is, until she receives a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, once known as Camp Wonder Falls, in Barlow Corners. He wants Stevie to help him out with a podcast on another unsolved case, the Box in the Woods murders.
In 1978, 4 camp counsellors went into the woods, and none came back out. They were stabbed brutally, and 3 of the 4 victims showed signs of head injury. These teens were Todd, the cocky Mayor’s son, Diane, Todd’s girlfriend and mediocre student, Eric, the camp weed dealer, and Sabrina… the local high school’s star student. I’ll let you decide who stands out.
It will surprise no one that I literally could not put this book down. I promise I tried, but I failed. I finished it at 11:30pm last night, which did nothing for my fear of the dark, but I genuinely could not stop turning the pages. Maureen Johnson has once again created a mystery that hooks the reader from the first page to the last.
There are lots of things to love about this book. It’s fast-paced, it creates amazing atmosphere, and Stevie talks through her thoughts very clearly, making it easy for the reader to immerse themselves. When she’s on the edge of a breakthrough, the anticipation is intense because the story is so absorbing. There are also several flashback scenes which are super helpful in keeping the reader engaged, because they feel like extra hints that not even Stevie has.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like every single aspect of the story, which is to be expected. Like I mentioned before in my review of Truly Devious, I don’t find Stevie a very likable character. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a great fit for narrating murder mysteries; she’s calculated, cold, and not very emotive. But she’s definitely not someone I’d like to be friends with, which detracted from my appreciation of the novel.
Another thing is the complicated romance between Stevie and David; it just didn’t belong in the book at all! It served no purpose, and it was so weird seeing Stevie suddenly feel things whenever he came around. So I apologize, but in the case of this novel in particular, I am back to being a romance hater.
Other than that, I have nothing else to critique, the beginning was a bit slow, but the other parts of the book made up for it! The mystery was well crafted as always, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.
I would rate The Box in the Woods an 8.5/10, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of murder mysteries!