The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

The basics

Title: The Box in the Woods


Series: Truly Devious #4

- Truly Devious (2018)
- The Vanishing Stair (2019)
- The Hand on the Wall (2020)
- The Box in the Woods (2021)
- Nine Liars (2022)

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Goodreads Summary:

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

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

what happened in The Box in the Woods?

  • There’s a whole new mystery in this book, thank GOD because I was getting bored of Albert and David.
  • Anyway, this case is based around Sabrina, who is a counsellor working at Camp Wonder Falls (lol) in 1978. She goes off into the woods with her friends, who all leave her alone at one point or another and then things fall eerily silent. Someone is behind her.
  • Stevie is working at a grocery store over the summer. She’s unfortunately still dating David, although no one knows why. He’s off somewhere trying to take down his politician father.
  • Stevie arrives home from work. She finds an email in her inbox from someone called Carson, who has bought Camp Wonder Falls and renamed it to Sunny Pines. Carson invites Stevie over to solve the murder from 1978, since she has a great track record.
  • I question this because it took Stevie three books to solve one mystery and this guy thinks she can do it in one? Okay.
  • Anywayyyy, Carson is making a podcast about the 1978 Box in the Woods murder. Stevie is obviously intrigued.
  • We flash back to 1978. Brandy is being stared at by a creepy child. She’s now in charge of all the children because she thinks the other counsellors are slacking but actually they’re dead. Brandy comes across one of the bodies.
  • Susan, the head of the camp, jogs over to where Brandy is screaming and realises that Eric is dead. She aks Shawn to call the police.
  • Stevie is travelling to Sunny Pines by train, because there is actually public transport in that area of the US, apparently. She considers all the train mysteries she has ever read, but thankfully she doesn’t get kidnapped.
  • Carson meets Stevie at the station, and he takes her and her friends back to his place. Stevie’s friends are all helping with the mystery, by the way.
  • Janelle is made head of Arts and Crafts because she’s the most artsy. Stevie pretends to be her assistant. Nate becomes the Librarian and plans to continue working on his book.
  • Back in 1978, the sheriff arrives. Turns out poor Eric was stabbed multiple times and his head was smashed. Patty tells the sheriff that Eric was with Sabrina, Diane, and Todd when they all went into the woods to smoke. The sheriff heads out to their smoking spot and finds SURPRISE written in white paint.
  • Carson shares a presentation about the murders and discusses his ideas for the podcast. There’s a lot of info on the victims and the people from town who may have been connected to the murders.
  • The following day, Carson holds a festival where he introduces everyone to Stevie. They meet Patty at the bakery and Allison (Sabrina’s sister) at the library.
  • In 1978 the town has a masive picnic for some big event. America. Patty’s father Arnold speaks to the Mayor, who is Todd’s father. Arnold wonders if the murders are related to Michael’s death from a few months ago. Todd may have run Michael over.
  • Brandy talks to her sister Megan about how she feels like the murderer is still hanging around.
  • Stevie and co. attend the festival, along with seemingly everyone who was ever connected to the Box murders. A detective tells Stevie that they’re looking for Sabrina’s diary, which has been missing for decades.
  • Carson tells everyone that Stevie is going to solve the murders. Mhmm.
  • Patty invites Stevie to the bakery, where Stevie spots a photo of Patty’s dad on the wall. Apparently it’s the only photo she has of him and it’s from the giant picnic of 1978. He got angry when Patty didn’t go to college and called all of her (dead) friends deadbeats.
  • Patty tells Stevie she would have been with her friends in the woods, but was busy speaking to her boyfriend, Greg. Greg kissed Sabrina, which caused a rift, but Patty and Greg were trying to make amends.
  • Patty says she was sleeping at the time of the murders and the screaming woke her up.
  • Greg died shortly after the giant picnic because he was drunk and riding his motorbike.
  • Stevie and her friends reconvene to share intel. A guy called Jason becomes a suspect but probably only for killing Todd.
  • Stevie and Janelle wake up to find the word SURPRISE written on their wall in paint. The paint is dry so was probably done a while ago.
  • After the giant picnic, the group of teen friends hang out on the football field. Patty and Greg argue and drives off on his bike and dies.
  • Stevie calls David and I blank the conversation out because I can’t stand him.
  • Carson provides surveillace cameras and Janelle installs them.
  • Allison stops by to apologise to Stevie. She offers to help with the investigation. Stevie heads over to Allison’s house, and Allison shows Stevie Sabrina’s belongings. Sabrina apparently kept a lot of diaries.
  • Stevie goes for a jog with Allison. She takes the opportunity to ask about Sabrina’s ex, Shawn. Allison doesn’t think Shawn was behind the murders.
  • Janelle finds some random papers that look like they were typed up by Sabrina. Stevie gives them to Allison.
  • Stevie figures out that Carson wrote SURPRISE on the wall. He’s very pleased that Stevie figured this out. He was setting it up for the podcast. Stevie thinks Carson is an idiot.
  • Stevie speaks to Paul, who is also sure that Todd ran over Michael. They talk about the murders. Paul says he was with Shawn at the time before he headed to bed.
  • David arrives. Vom.
  • Allison dies. She apparently fell from Arrowhead Point while jogging. Stevie goes to speak to witnesses, who didn’t see anyone else around.
  • Susan calls Stevie to talk about Allison. Susan wants to meet Stevie, so Stevie and David drive out to see her.
  • Susan is married to the camp nurse called Magda.
  • Susan said she witnessed Greg’s crash and a flash of light.
  • David tells Stevie the police have finished up investigating at the scene where Allison fell, so Stevie heads over there.
  • David says he’s going to have to move to England. Shame. Stevie is upset though and heads back to the camp.
  • There’s a storm and everyone loses power.
  • Stevie figures out where Sabrina’s diary must be. In a turtle cookie jar! Obviously.
  • Stevie and Nate break into Allison’s house to find the jar. It’s now in the kitchen instead of in the Sabrina shrine. Stevie finds the diary and is about to look at it when someone walks in. Stevie and Nate have to flee the scene. Someone has stolen their bikes.
  • They run into the woods and head back to camp. Someone chases them to the Point and they have to jump off. Stevie breaks her arm and loses her bag and the diary. David is somehow still around and brings a kayak over to help them.
  • Stevie is taken to hospital for monitoring. She asks the nurse for a pen and writes on her cast before falling asleep.
  • Stevie leaves the hospital and heads into the woods with David. She needs Janelle.
  • Stevie tells everyone that six people were murdered in 1978, not four, and everyone in the town is lying. I mean, I could have told them that. Stevie says Paul was lying about being with Shawn, and that Paul was actually gay and went to secret meet a guy. Susan covered this up because she is also gay.
  • Stevie reads from Sabrina’s diary, which says that Shawn went into stalker mode after she broke up with him. Diane invited Sabrina to hang out with her, Todd, Eric, Patty, and Greg, so that’s how they became friends.
  • The diary says that one time Sabrina and Patty were at Patty’s house alone. They hide in the pool house and overhear Patty’s spy dad speaking German with a random visitor. Sabrina had been learning German and could pick up on bits of the conversation, and she hears something about someone called von Hessen who was being followed and possibly killed by Russians.
  • Sabrina and Greg kiss at this point and then Patty arrives home.
  • Sabrina wonders whether Patty’s dad is a Nazi. She wonders what happened to his random guest and whether he was killed. She tries ringing him but it doesn’t go through. Sabrina starts researching the Third Reich.
  • Sabrina confides in Eric, who doesn’t think much of it.
  • Sabrina tells Patty about her kiss with Greg. Patty leaves camp for a bit but returns and she’s still with Greg.
  • In present day, Patty is in the audience listening to Stevie. Stevie calls Germaine, who found out some information on Patty’s dad, Arnold Horne and the mysterious guest, Wendell Rolf. They both went to war in Europe together, and only one of them came back. A Nazi called von Hessen returned in Arnold Horne’s place.
  • It turns out that Patty told her father about Greg and Sabrina kissing in the pool house. Horne/von Hessen decided Sabrina and co. had to die, so he killed them. He later killed Greg because he was in the pool house with Sabrina.
  • Patty knew about all of this and was apparently fine with it?
  • Stevie tells everyone that Patty played a part in Greg’s death and also killed Allison. The police arrest Patty.
  • David and Stevie talk about David’s plan to move to England. He invites her along.

That’s what happened in The Box in the Woods! 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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