The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

the vanishing stair cover

The basics

Title: The Vanishing Stair


Series: Truly Devious #2

- Truly Devious (2018)
- The Vanishing Stair (2019)
- The Hand on the Wall (2020)

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Goodreads Summary:

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Here is a spoiler summary of what happened in The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson to help refresh your memory before you read the sequel.

what happened in The Vanishing Stair?

  • 1936: Frankie and Edward put together the Truly Devious letter, supposedly to give Albert Ellingham a taste of his own medicine. Frankie seems to hate him.
  • Stevie has been taken out of school by her parents because of Hayes’ death and Ellie’s disappearance. It’s okay though because Edward King, David’s father and Stevie’s parents’ favourite person, gets Stevie back in, even flying her to town.
  • This is because David is acting out and seems to be trying to get expelled.
  • Stevie reunites with her friends, re-enrols in classes, and immediately gets back on the case.
  • 1936: Frankie is told to leave her stuff in her room (for the last time) by a teacher. Frankie seems to know too much, including that Albert and the teacher are seeing each other.
  • Stevie is researching in the library when David comes in and apparently sets off a bunch of squirrels. Everyone is upset with him.
  • Stevie goes to see Dr Fenton and offers to work on the Ellingham case with her. Stevie meets Fenton’s nephew, Hunter.
  • During the Halloween party, Stevie and David end up in tunnels that have an entrance under a staircase in Minerva. They find Ellie’s body, and David is very upset. Stevie tells him about how his dad got her back into school. David gets even more upset.
  • Stevie goes to Fenton’s house, which is gross and smelly, and shows Fenton the information she has gathered. Fenton is pleased and says she’ll continue to work with Stevie.
  • David pays people to beat him up on camera and uploads the video. Stevie isn’t sure if David is up to something or if this is another attempt to get expelled.
  • Larry leaves Ellingham (or is asked to leave) because people have died under his watch.
  • Stevie finds out that Albert Ellingham told Mackenzie that “it’s on the wire”. Who even knows.
  • Hunter warns Stevie against working with his aunt.
  • Stevie finds an old wire recording device and Janelle fixes it. They listen to a recording of Albert Ellingham interviewing Dottie, who talks about second story and attic men.
  • Stevie has a breakthrough.
  • 1936: Albert Ellingham takes Marsh, the FBI guy, out on his boat and tells him he knows. Marsh confesses to having huge gambling debts, and he paid two people to kidnap Iris and Alice Ellingham so that Marsh could get the ransom money off Ellingham. The plan went wrong, and the two men who were hired took Iris and Alice and demanded more money from Marsh. Marsh doesn’t think Ellingham will set off the detonator on the boat since Marsh might know where Alice is. The boat explodes, and we’re not sure if Ellingham set it off or if Marsh’s cigarette caused the explosion.
  • Stevie tries to call Dr Fenton but she hangs up after saying “not now, the kid is there!”. Stevie tells Larry to go to Fenton’s house.
  • Larry calls Stevie and tells her that Fenton has died in a house fire. He doesn’t know the condition of her nephew, Hunter. Larry wants to know how Stevie knew that Fenton was in trouble.

That’s what happened in The Vanishing Stair! Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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  • Andrea Ward says:

    This series is one of a kind. I think that it is unique and absolutely brilliant! Maureen Johnson is a very talented author. The world is lucky to have her.

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