Review: “Box in the Woods,” the perfect book for lovers of author Karen McManus [MUSE]

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Jenny Li

Box in the Woods, written by Maureen Johnson, is the fourth book in the series Truly Devious but can be read as a standalone. With very gory details and the occasional mention of drugs, this murder mystery book is perfect for those who love a good serial killer book. 

Stephanie “Stevie” Bell, gets recognized by the owner of Sunny Pines after her breakthrough with the Ellingham Academy case and invites her to come to Sunny Pines to help him work on his podcast about the case of the Box in the Woods Murders. Four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display in the summer of 1978. Stevie agrees, and after opening the long-forgotten case, she uncovers details that may get her killed before the case is solved. 

Johnson’s characters are all challenging, they’re each broken in their own ways but they’re all very driven and determined. The emotions that Johnson captures are very clear and present an accurate reflection of the personalities that she gives to the characters. The small details that she includes throughout the book point towards the culprit once you piece it all together. The book is written in a format where it goes back and forth between the present and the past, giving the readers more details to piece it together themselves. You feel the urge to tell Stevie what happened and give her information after gaining the understanding of the past yourself but that’s how the author maintains that suspense, making the reader wait until Stevie finds out herself what truly happened. 

The emotions you feel for the characters throughout the book fluctuate a lot, varying from curiosity to concern to compassion. Johnson makes the characters’ feelings and actions meaningful enough for the reader to experience and express these emotions while reading the book. 

Overall, this book was great, amazing even, and that’s a word you’ll hardly hear me say to a book. Murder mystery was always a genre that I anticipate to read but not all murder mystery books are considered one of my top choices. For me, Karen McManus books were my top books, and it’s hard for any other author to capture my attention outside of her books until I found Johnson’s Truly Devious series. The suspense and intensity that Johnson is able to bring out in her book truly makes this book a must-read. 

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