The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

The basics

Title: The Hand on the Wall


Series: Truly Devious #3

- 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:

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

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

what happened in The Hand on the Wall?

  • We finally learn more about Alice Ellingham, something readers have been hoping for since the firt book. We travel to Sweden.
  • Albert speaks to Leonard about a green clock and Marie Antoinette.
  • Alice is born and Albert goes up to meet his daughter. Iris is also there. Flora Robinson speaks up and asks to hold her baby. Turns out she’s Alice’s birth mother.
  • Back in the present day, Stevie is struggling. This whole thing does seem exhausting to be fair.
  • Stevie confides in Nate and tells him everything that has been going on with the case. You can read our other recaps for this series if you want to go into more detail.
  • Janelle tests the Rube Goldberg machine and invites Stevie to watch.
  • On the way to see Janelle, Stevie speaks to Charles about the amendment to Albert’s will. Charles says there is no amendment.
  • Charles sends Stevie to town to get some stuff for Hunter, who thankfully didn’t die in the house fire. Hunter is now living on campus.
  • Stevie heads into town and bumps into Larry. They talk about Dickhead David for a bit and the house fire. They wonder if David had anything to do with the latter.
  • Stevie spots a flyer for an arthouse. Ellie is in the photo. Stevie goes and investigates, adn finds another clue about Ellingham Academy. Something about things being inside the walls.
  • Stevie heads back to school and still doesn’t see any moose. Disappointing.
  • She does see Germaine Batt, though. The two of them talk about Hunter and his living situation, and all the deaths that have been happening recently.
  • Stevie finally sees Janelle and the machine, which seems to work perfectly.
  • David calls up and they have a stupid conversation that I have blanked out because I truly despise this ship. It’s truly disgusting.
  • Back in 1936, Iris and Leonard are talking. Mostly about cocaine. Leonard gives some to Iris, who leaves, and Leonard is approached by two students who ask for a photo.
  • Present day: The students all talk about Hunter and his move to campus. It’s the hottest gossip, apparently.
  • Politician Edward King is running for president, which no one wants.
  • The group talk about the message that was on Stevie’s wall and they decide they’ll have to do some investigating in the school.
  • Hunter moves into Ellie’s old room.
  • Janelle gives a presentation and her machine explodes and injures another student. Not good. Stevie thinks someone has tampered with the machine.
  • Germaine does a report on the machine. Everything kicks off and the school shuts down, and the students are being sent home.
  • Stevie goes to pack up her things. David is there, hovering like a fly.
  • In 1936 Francis and Edward are chilling in a secret grotto. They write a poem together using magazine cut outs.
  • Francis heads back to her room and hides her notebook in the wall of her closet.
  • Dottie followed Francis back and sees her and Edward disappear into a hole in the ground.
  • David reveals he has returned in order to gather the troops and stop his father from becoming president. He knows a lot of condemning information on his father that could ruin his campaign.
  • David wants Stevie and co. to help him go through the files he found and make some sense of them.
  • Stevie and Hunter play some board games and David gets jealous because he’s gross.
  • In 1936, just after the kidnapping, Flora and Leonard are talking about Alice and the adoption. Iris asked Leonard who Alice’s bio-father was, and whether he could be behind the kidnapping.
  • Leonard notices Flora looking at George Marsh while they’re talking about the bio-father. Hmm. Leonard thinks Alice looks like George. Flora basically confirms that George is the dad but he doesn’t know.
  • In the present day, the crew are stuck in Minerva House due to a blizzard. Stevie starts to freak out about all the deaths.
  • Jeanelle sneaks out to the art barn to retrieve a wall scanner so they can all look inside the walls. They find Francis’ hidden diary. There’s a draft of the Truly Devious letter inside which proves that Francis and Edward were behind the whole thing.
  • There’s also a poem called Our Treasure.
  • The power goes out and the students are sent to the Great House.
  • Charles gives Stevie some records but she reads the diary instead.
  • The team find that Edward King is blackmailing his donors because he wants a continuous flow of money.
  • In 1936, Flora tells George about his relationship to the baby. George is determined to find out where his daughter is.
  • George receives a note that basically tells him to keep quiet. George finds one of the kidnappers called Jerry, who says they took Alice to a family in the mountains. Also Iris is dead.
  • George is shown Alice’s grave. She contracted measles and is now dead.
  • George kills Jerry, takes Alice’s body, and leaves.
  • Stevie realises that the poem is not a poem, and is in fact a treasure map. Called Our Treasure. She follows the map and falls into a secret room beneath a statue.
  • David has followed her because of course. They end up in the room where Francis and Edward used to hang out.
  • The hatch closes above them and they get trapped.
  • David tells Stevie the amendment to Albert’s will is real.
  • Stevie and David blow the door open and are helped out of the hole by Germaine.
  • They head back to the Great House. Stevie gathers her friends in Albert’s office and explains what the hell has been going on.
  • Stevie explains that Ellie was the only one with a motive to kill Hayes. She didn’t want to though because she already had the money and was working on her art. She ran because she was a suspect, and then died.
  • Stevie says that Fenton found out that Alice was at the school. A trunk was found during an excavation, which contained a body.
  • In the 30’s (probably 1937 or 1938 at this point?), Albert wanted to have the tunnels blocked and the lake drained. George hid Alice’s body in a trunk and put it inside the tunnels. Leonard saw him and confronted him. They agree not to tell Albert.
  • The funeral is held. Leonard hides the codicil inside a green clock.
  • Turns out that Charles found the trunk. Being faculty, though, he couldn’t claim the money for finding Alice’s body. He roped Hayes in, who probably wanted more money from Charles, and so Charles tried to have him killed. Charles trapped Ellie in the tunnels and killed Fenton.
  • Larry shows up and scans the walls of Albert’s office. They find Alice’s body. Charles is taken into one of the other rooms, but he escapes through a secret passage. He falls to his death, though.
  • It comes out that Edward King has been blackmailing people. He withdraws from the presidential race.
  • DNA confirms that Alice wasn’t biologically related to the Ellinghams.
  • Therefore no one can get the money because Alice’s DNA doesn’t match. Stevie is cool with this, because she wants the money to go to the school.
  • Stevie spots a moose! She thinks.

That’s what happened in The Hand on the Wall! 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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