So, something happened last week- while I was reading this book: A man died.
The news said he fell from the second floor of my campus hostel. The gossip said his girlfriend pushed him from the second floor of my campus hostel. The blood stains on the ground were pointed out to me with a morbid fascination the next morning. Police made their presence felt by standing converging around the said blood stains, looking up and pointing fingers. Students got calls from agitated parents. There was a lot of talk about murder and crime.
For two days.
At the end of two days, the case closed, the gossip died down, the whispers stopped and life went back to normal.
A man had died close enough for me to hear his screams, while I was close enough to hear his screams. But, he didn’t scream or I didn’t hear. And after the fact, many stories were weaved, but, nobody knew what happened. Did he fall? Was he pushed? Who was his girlfriend? Was there a motive? Was it murder or was it an unfortunate accident?
In Agatha Christie’s novels, murders end in resolutions and explanations. The walls are pulled down and the behind-the-scenes exposed. A story comes together in a way that makes perfect sense. In real life, it goes a little differently.
This was the second death on campus in the last six months. The last body was found with a knife in the belly and therefore, left no doubt of its nefarious intents. Stories about the killer, his motives, the victim made their usual rounds for the next week. But, the killer wasn’t caught and we didn’t get the exclusive sneak peek into the workings of his wicked mind.
That’s how real life goes. The only things you’re truly in the know about are the goings-on of your own life. Everything else is only a picture through a keyhole.
Truly Devious by Maurice Johnson seems to capture that feeling. It’s about a girl who’s looking through the keyhole and trying to decipher a crime that went down many decades ago. The information is dodgy at best and the resolution foggy; because in real life, the killer doesn’t break down and confess. He just lives with the fact and with the talk.
While that is one aspect of the story, life is going on as expected of a high school student who’s not too popular or too lonely, who deals with school projects and panic attacks, who’s worried about friends and boys. Now, the boy-part kind of felt a little sudden and suddenly overdone in my opinion. But, I think that’s sort of a side effect of having a series in the works. Padding be required to fill 3 books after all.
The mystery element is beautifully done and Johnson’s writing style is easy to read and flows well. However, there was descriptive info dump in the earlier that took me some time to get through. I’m not too fond of too much description.
The other issue I had was the change of tone between the 2 time periods. The book goes back and forth between the present and the crime of 1936. The tension and the atmosphere of the crime-ridden period suddenly shifting to high school shenanigans felt quite jarring. However, once the present catches up to that atmosphere, it flows easy again and in fact, the back and forth gelled together very well from that point on.
The characters were fun and vivid. I couldn’t get too attached to any of them, though that might also be because I’ve gained from distance from my high school years. But, they’re interesting and non-repulsive and it’s not an effort to want to know what they’re getting up to.
BOTTOMLINE: It made for a fun companion to eat with, travel with or go to bed with; I’ve ordered the second book in the series.