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Among the Departed by Vicki Delany
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
Buttercream Bump Off
Camp by Lev A.C. Rosen
A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett
Darling by K. Ancrum
Deadly Ever After by Eva Gates
Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay
Dough Boys by Paula Chase
Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day
The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly
Grilled for Murder by Maddie Day
A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani
Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing
Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore
Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton
One Way or Another by Kara McDowell
Ozma by Candace Robinson and Amber R. Duell
A Problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read and Gone by Allison Brook
Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson
Stargazer by Anne Hillerman
Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Wicked Things by John Allison and Max Sarin (Illustrations)
Witches and Wedding Cake by Bailey Cates

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5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
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3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
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The Box in the Woods: 07/11/21

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson is a standalone spin-off mystery from the Truly Devious (2018) trilogy. Stevie Bell and cohorts from Ellingham Academy have been hired to solve a cold case at Camp Wonder Falls in rural Barlow Corners.

This time the murders have happened in more recent history — 1978. For the intended reader, it's a time period in their parents' and grandparents' lifetimes. For me it's the year I started kindergarten. It's also a time period from the author's life time as she and I are the same age.

As the flashbacks are only forty-four years back, compared to about eighty years from the Ellingham Academy ones, they blend more naturally with the present day story. It could also be that Johnson found better ways of making the two plots flow together through the practice of writing the previous three.

The other big difference here is that the mystery is self contained. It flows with a similar narrative punctuation as a typical cozy. Stevie as the amateur sleuth begins asking questions that have long since been buried by time and those old enough to remember the crime begin to get nervous. Some just don't want to revisit old painful memories. Some don't want the old hurt feelings back to threaten repaired friendships. And of course at least one person doesn't want to get caught. All this ill will results (as it always does) in a present day murder.

The cold case murder beyond the unique gruesomeness of it reminds me most of Death by French Roast by Alex Erickson (2020). I mean this in terms of time past. Also both feature a crime that happened when some of the characters were teenagers and is being solved when they are middle aged to elderly adults.

Like the Ellingham set books, The Box in the Woods is set in the road narrative spectrum. Stevie and her cohorts are now known for their accomplishments at the school and thus are privileged travelers (00) to the camp. While the camp is their physical destination, the actual goal is solving another cold case, making the final destination uhoria (CC). Their route to the camp, though, is the railroad (00). Thus it's a journey of a privileged traveler to uhoria via the railroad (00CC00).

Five stars

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