Facepalming at the Hand on the Wall

hand on the wall

Ahh this book is such wasted potential! As the finale in the Truly Devious series, I had high hopes, but this fell short for me. Let’s investigate what went well and what went wrong.

orangutan mystery

To be fair, this book does offer a satisfying solution to the three-book mystery and there were times when I wanted to high five the author. The Biblical reference of the title was a stroke of genius and I loved how it tied into the plot. And I enjoyed seeing Stevie and the gang again. I was also happy with how the romance turned out, even if it was unnecessarily drawn out and their arguments seemed a little circular.

So, what went wrong?

Well, for starters, there was a whole lot more politics in this book. It was barely noticeable in Truly Devious, started to get on my nerves in Vanishing Stair, yet it was so much worse here. The politics was ratcheted up to such insane levels that it distracted from the main plot- such that I was sure it had to have some baring on the main mystery… but nope- it was just an opportunity to bash Republicans. Plus, it didn’t help that Johnson went for extra woke points and threw the grammar rulebook out the window, using the third person pronoun incorrectly to create a nice muddling effect. Look, I’m never going to be a fan of inserting modern politics in books and I’m a massive fan of correct grammar, so I get it if you want to take my views with a pinch of salt- however it’s my view as a reader that unrelated subplots shouldn’t confuse the audience or take away that much of the limelight from the central story. Granted, not every detail of a narrative has to tie in to the overarching plot, but if you make a big enough deal out of something, then there had better be a damn good reason for it.

Funnily enough, I think an example of a subplot working well with a story was Stevie’s anxiety. Because, again, the tension was executed superbly. It’s just a shame the answers weren’t as exciting as I was hoping. I wasn’t tremendously wowed when I found out who the culprit was- in either case. It was nice to have answers and all, yet I felt the questions posed in previous instalments had been more interesting. The puzzle assembled itself into an acceptable picture, however the little pieces on their own didn’t thrill me: the cause of death for one particular victim was especially lame, the motive in both cases uninspiring and everything a little too neat. I hoped that the mention of a Christie novel would give us something spectacular… but the end result was far less interesting. I did like how the two timelines tied together- it’s just a shame there wasn’t more to it.

Ultimately, I was kind of disappointed by this. Disappointed that it went off track for no reason, disappointed by the incessant bickering of the characters and disappointed by the uninspiring ending. More energy could have been given to the motive and actual story than the unnecessary tangents. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t a bad finale, but it could have been better.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

So, have you read this series? What did you think of it? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

20 thoughts on “Facepalming at the Hand on the Wall

  1. Ahh I’m inspired to do my own review after reading yours even though I’m not book blogging exactly anymore. I need to read your linked post about not liking modern politics inserted into books (forgive me for not before commenting). I honestly did like the hints of it in the first book Truly Devious. But I hated how it dominated The Hand on the Wall. Not enough to hate the book but to mourn the loss of page time dedicated to David’s antics related to ruining his father, which had nothing to do with the mystery of the series.

    I was hoping he would be up to something more interesting. I had hoped the commune Ellie was involved with had ties to Frances/Francis (I’m not looking it up) and she was up to something different. I was hoping Albert would be exposed for something that added nuance to him as a character a la discovering Dumbledore’s past ambition.

    I liked how tidily it wrapped up, but I do wish there had been more to the journey. Ahhhh…I’m going to miss looking forward to more additions to this series.

    Any recs for similar reads? I’m so out of the loop these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh brilliant- I’d love to read your review! No worries- thanks very much for checking it out! Ah I can understand that- it was ok as a subplot there (though it’s never going to be a subplot I enjoy). But yeah, it wasn’t an enjoyable part of the book and took up way too much of the plot!

      So did I! I completely get what you mean (hehe I can’t remember if it was Frances or Francis either 😉 ) Oh yeah that would’ve been cool.

      That’s fair- I think I’d have liked that too (though I wasn’t as in love with the ending). Completely agree with you on that score!

      Oh I wish- there aren’t enough YA mysteries out there to choose from!


  2. Ah I’m sorry this one didn’t quite work out for you. I completely blocked out all the political aspects of the story because I found it so uninteresting and unnecessary. I do agree that it took away from the mystery. And though I love how the mystery unraveled, the actual culprits to both the past and present mysteries were underwhelming and predictable. I didn’t completely understand the romance between Stevie and David, so that was also a weak point for me. But everything leading up to the big reveal and the author’s portrayal of anxiety were some of the strongest elements of the story. Despite this finale, I think this series is one of the better YA mysteries available!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad I was not the only one, who picked up on the politics. I docked it a half star, because it was all posturing on Johnson’s part. I tolerated the small political bits in books 1 and 2, but to get to the final book, and it had NOTHING to do with any part of the story, that frustrated me. It was all about the author making sure everyone knew what “side” she was on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think yours is the first review I have seen that isn’t bubbling over with enthusiasm about it. I am glad to see it, it means it’s not a perfect series because I have heard/read/seen nothing but great things and I have been intimidated by that. So, thanks for the review! I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy it though.


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