I read Maureen Johnson's Little Blue Envelopes books back when they came out, so I knew her name but didn't seek out more of her books until I had a hankerin' for some mysteries. I love any type of mystery, but was on a cozy mystery kick, and wanted to see if that was a genre within YA or not. Thankfully, it is - and Maureen Johnson is amazing at it!
I first read the Shades of London series, which made me want to re-visit England and also reminded me of how obsessed I was with Jack the Ripper as a teenager. Aka the perfect series for me! I usually love books that have intense character development so I can feel like I'm living another life for a bit, but cozy mysteries don't really do that. However, with Shades of London, it was so well-written that I felt like I knew the characters well enough as-is.
The same is true with Truly Devious. The first three books take place at a boarding school, which is already enchanting enough to a former public school student. The fourth is at a spooky summer camp and the fifth is in London for a study abroad program, so basically this series had everything I dreamed of as a teenager.
Some things I loved about this series was how I never really knew who was the culprit - though I had a good guess in the fourth book, The Box in the Woods. But not knowing never made me feel like I was kept in the dark throughout the story, as it sometimes does in suspense novels (looking at you, unreliable narrator in The Girl on the Train). Also, I used to hate reading series if I didn’t read them back to back because I’d forget so much of the action in the previous book, but Maureen Johnson adds recap sentences throughout the beginning of the book to remind readers, without being too heavy-handed about it or devoting a whole chapter to a recap. I mean, I did read these back to back, perhaps with an adult novel in between, but there was still just enough recap to remind you of the previous book. But you can also read them as standalones without missing anything.
I can't recommend this series - and everything else I've read by Maureen Johnson - enough. I was especially delighted by Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village, which cracked me up with each page. I gave it as a gift and also recommended my mother gift it to a friend who loves mysteries, so it's only natural that I recommend it to you, too!
Have you read any of Maureen Johnson's books? If I enjoyed these so much, do you have any similar recommendations for me?