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Read a full summary of Nine Liars, book #5 in Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series. This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Nine Liars, then you are in the right place!

Special thanks to Susan Jensen, a BSR contributor, who wrote this great recap! Visit her blog to check out what she’s reading and see what’s on her mind. Don’t forget to follow Susan on Goodreads and Facebook!

Maureen Johnson

4.3 stars on Amazon
3.82 stars on Goodreads
Add Nine Liars at Goodreads.

Truly Devious Series
#1 Truly Devious (recap)
#2 The Vanishing Stair (recap)
#3 The Hand on the Wall (recap)
#4 The Box in the Woods (recap)
#5 Nine Liars (this page)
#6 Untitled (Goodreads)

***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****

What happened in Nine Liars?

It’s Stevie Bell’s senior year at Ellingham Academy and she is feeling antsy. She’s not sure what she wants to do after high school, she doesn’t have a murder to solve, and she’s missing her boyfriend, David Eastman. David is attending college in London. When he suggests to Stevie that she should convince Ellingham’s head of school to let her and her best friends do a study abroad in England, she eagerly agrees. Soon, Stevie and her pals Janelle Franklin, Vi Harper-Tomo, and Nate Fisher are stepping off a plane in London. David meets them and after showing them a couple places around town, he introduces them to Izzy, his vivacious study partner. Izzy excitedly tells the Americans about an old, unsolved murder her aunt Angela knows about that she thinks Stevie might be interested in investigating.

In the summer of 1995, nine best friends who lived together at Cambridge University and performed together as a comedy sketch group called “The Nine,” went to Merryweather—a country manor house owned by Sebastian Holt-Carey’s family—to relax and party before their impending graduation from college. Two of them were murdered during a drunken game of hide-and-seek. The friends were:

Sebastian Holt-Carey—The future sixth Viscount Holt-Carey, he was big-hearted and charming.

Rosie Mortimer—a petite Irish woman with a big personality and a flair for the dramatic

Suzanna “Sooz” Rillington—fun and spontaneous

Noel Butler—a kind, thoughtful straight-laced guy

Peter Elmore—A comedy nerd, he loved jokes and gags and was determined to make a name for himself in the comedy business. He was quiet, thoughtful, and subtly funny.

Yash Varma—Also a comedy nerd, he was Peter’s writing partner for comedy bits.

Julian Reynolds—a gorgeous playboy

Angela Gill—a student of history and writer of comedy sketches; Izzy’s aunt

Theodora “Theo” Bailey—a Black medical student from London who was always mothering the others

The Nine drive to Merryweather in two different cars. In one, Sebastian, Sooz, Rosie, and Yash talked about Rosie’s recent breakup with Julian. He, a notoriously unfaithful flirt, had kissed a pretty Canadian tourist while drunk at a pub. No one was really surprised by his behavior, but

Rosie was hurt., The others in the car reassured her she had done the right thing by ending their romantic relationship.

Even though it was dark and stormy outside and the friends had been drinking heavily, they decided to play an elaborate game of hide-and-seek using the house and its extensive grounds. The outbuildings were all locked and off limits. Sebastian held onto the keys. After hours of playing, the storm got too violent, and the game was called off. All of the players but Rosie and Noel returned to the house. Sebastian insisted they open a bottle of special whiskey, which he retrieved with great trouble from a locked cabinet that he had trouble opening because he was fumbling with the keys while drunk. Those who were inside joked around, drank some more, and worried only a little about their missing members, who they assumed were purposely not coming inside in order to have some time alone together. Around 2:30 a.m., Sooz saw a flash of light outside, presumably from a flashlight (although neither Rosie nor Noel was carrying one). Not overly concerned about their missing friends in spite of the fact that it was now early in the morning, the seven people inside the house went to sleep.

In the morning, Rosie and Noel were nowhere to be found. Theo and Sebastian set out to look for them. While they searched, the rest of the group went to the grocery store to get provisions. Theo and Sebastian became alarmed when they noticed the door to a large woodshed hanging open. The padlock on the door was still intact, but the door’s latch had been forcibly ripped from the wood. Inside, they found the dead bodies of Rosie and Noel. The two had multiple wounds from an ax and had suffered massive blood loss. Because the door to the shed was left open in the storm, rain had washed away footprints and other evidence. Although there was nothing of value in the shed, the police surmised that the dead students must have interrupted a burglary-in-progress and been killed by the thief. Their investigation went nowhere. No one was ever charged with the crimes.

Izzy suggests that Stevie should start her investigation into the crime by talking to Angela, who now produces history shows for the BBC. Since the Ellingham students are supposed to be studying English history, meeting with the historian would help them fulfill the requirements for their study abroad as well. When all the students arrive at Angela’s home, Stevie realizes the historian didn’t know they were coming. She’s even more blindsided when Izzy mentions the murders of her friends. Angela is obviously reluctant to talk about it, but she clams right up when Stevie mentions the padlock on the woodshed. She quickly shoos the kids out the door. Stevie recognizes the emotion Angela is clearly displaying: fear. What does she know that she’s not telling? (In a flashback earlier in the book, Angela told Theo that she had passed the woodshed while playing hide-and-seek the night before and saw the padlock was off the door. She had rattled the doorknob and tried to get in, but the door seemed to be stuck from the inside, so she gave up and kept playing.)

After a day of touring important sites in London, David takes Stevie on a date for dinner and a Jack the Ripper tour. While they are out together, he tells her that although his dad has cut off David’s access to any family money, Senator Edward King has offered to pay David’s college tuition as long as he stays in England (out of the way of the slimy senator’s political campaign)

until he graduates. David doesn’t want his dad’s money, although it would make his life easier. He says he doesn’t mind staying in England and suggests that Stevie should attend college there as well so they can be together. Stevie is unsure. She’s also irritated that Izzy keeps texting David. She’s jealous of their obviously close relationship, even though he reassures her there’s no reason for her to be worried. Stevie has an anxiety attack, which ends their date with all its awkward conversations.

While Stevie, Nate, Janelle, and Vi are out taking in the sites, David and Izzy show up. Izzy is concerned because her Aunt Angela is not responding to texts. When Izzy went to her house the day after the kids visited, not only was Angela not there but none of the food and trash from their dinner together had been cleaned up. Angela’s tablet, which she uses to send and receive text messages, was in her apartment. On it, there was a text thread between Angela, Theo, Sooz, Peter, Yash, Sebastian, and Julian. Angela had asked if they could all meet at Sebastian’s manor house to discuss what happened the night Rosie and Noel were killed. The last thing Angela said on the text thread was, “She had the button.” No one understands what she’s talking about. When they ask questions, Angela doesn’t reply. Both Theo and Peter then tried to call her and she didn’t answer. Izzy says it’s unlike Angela to ghost people or simply disappear. She’s worried about her aunt.

All of them go to Angela’s apartment, which is still in the same state that Izzy had described. They look around for clues as to where she might have gone. They empty Angela’s garbage onto the floor, sifting through it for clues. When Angela’s cat, Doorknob, sneaks off with a piece of chicken, she leads them to a hidden cubby under the floor. Inside, the kids find a locked briefcase-style safe, which they can’t open. They decide to take it with them. Stevie concludes that since Angela disappeared right after communicating with the remaining members of The Nine, her vanishing must have something to do with them. Izzy says she will contact Angela’s old friends and arrange a meeting.

Stevie and Izzy go to Sooz’s apartment, where they meet with Sooz, Peter, and Yash. They go over the story of the manor house party again. Sooz shows Stevie a photo she took of The Nine when they arrived at the house in 1995. The woodshed where the bodies of Rosie and Noel were found is in the background of the picture. A small closed window is visible on the shed.

Later that evening, Izzy tells Stevie and David that Julian, who is now a Member of Parliament (MP) with connections in the police department, has learned that Angela received a call from an unknown number when she was in the middle of the text conversation with her friends. Izzy also lets them know that they have all been invited to Merryweather to meet with the remaining members of The Nine to discuss Angela’s disappearance. Since Dr. Quinn (Ellingham’s head of school) calls every day to make sure Stevie and her friends are actually studying, they are reluctant to spend time away from London, especially without her permission. Stevie calls Dr. Quinn, who forbids them to go. Stevie lies and tells the group the head of school said yes.

While on the train to Merryweather, Stevie figures out the combination to the lock on Angela’s safe. Inside is a large collection of documents and photos related to the 1995 murders. It’s clear

she was investigating the case, investigating her friends. Also inside the case is a seemingly unrelated newspaper article, dated the day of the murders, that talks about the discovery of a body in the River Cam. The dead woman was an 18-year-old American student named Samantha Garvis, who was on vacation in England. A week previous, Garvis, who was drunk, told friends she wanted to go punt running, a dangerous Cambridge tradition that involves running alongside punt boats while they’re tied up at dock. Apparently that’s what she was doing when her foot caught on a shopping cart that was on the bottom of the river. She hit her head, was knocked unconscious, and drowned.

Stevie studies the crime scene photos that are in the safe. She notices one of the woodshed. In it, the shed’s small window has been propped open a few inches.

Stevie and her friends arrive at Merryweather, where they are greeted by Sebastian, who is now a viscount and the owner of the home. While he is giving them a tour, he shows them the woodshed. Stevie is puzzled when she enters the shed, looks up, and sees a flat ceiling with no window. Sebastian explains that there is a crawlspace in the woodshed that is accessed by stairs which are pulled down using a string. In 1995, the floor was so rotted no one could have used the space. He says his parents sealed it up after the murders for safety reasons. Stevie convinces Sebastian to leave her and her friends alone in the woodshed. She pulls down the crawl space stairs and explores the space, which is tiny. Stevie shows David a crime scene photo of the shed that shows the door to the crawl space with no rope dangling from it. How, she asks, could someone have gotten up there with no rope, rotted floor boards, and very little space, in order to open the window? And why? Stevie wonders if Sebastian is lying about the rotted floor boards.

When Julian arrives at Merryweather, he tells the group that CCTV cameras picked up Angela leaving her apartment and riding the Tube to Waterloo station. After that, she opened an umbrella over her head and was no longer distinguishable enough to stand out on the CCTV cameras. Her phone was traced. It pinged an hour after her departure at Waterloo from close by. The group wonders if she left of her own accord, needing to rush out on her own for some innocent reason. Stevie believes she’s in danger.

Stevie solves the mystery of the crawl space when she realizes that Sebastian and the others were growing marijuana in the space. When the murders occurred in the woodshed, the friends knew the police would discover the plants, get suspicious, and likely arrest Sebastian. They admit they worked together to clean the space of any trace of cannabis. Then, Theo closed the trapdoor and cut the rope. Julian, Sooz, Angela, Peter, and Yash took the trash bags full of plants to a nearby dumpster and then went to the store so they had a reason to be out driving around. Then, Sebastian and Theo called the police.

Janelle confronts Stevie about lying to her friends about having Dr. Quinn’s permission to go to Merryweather. She forgives Stevie for the deception, but she demands that they return to London the next day and do what they are supposed to be doing. Although Stevie is fearful for Angela, she agrees to Janelle’s plan.

Stevie, who has decided she wants to lose her virginity to David on the England trip, is about to do so when Sooz knocks on their door. Sooz says she knows who Samantha Garvis is. She rouses everyone in the house and gathers them in the kitchen. She announces that Samantha was the girl Julian kissed in the bar. (Samantha had apparently said she was Canadian because she thought Brits didn’t like Americans.) Yash says that the night after Julian kissed Samantha, Yash hung out with her because he really liked her. He also kissed her. In addition, he lent her some CDs. He gave her the address of the house where The Nine lived so she could return them, but she never showed. Since the location of her corpse was near the house, he surmises that she was likely on her way there to return the CDs when she died. Stevie is increasingly suspicious since the article about the body of Samantha—a girl members of The Nine had been hanging out with right before her death—being found was published on the same day The Nine left Cambridge for Merryweather.

In the morning, Stevie and Nate are up early. Stevie asks him to go on a walk around the Merryweather property. Nate tells Stevie that he is asexual, which does not surprise her.

While the occupants of the house are having breakfast, Julian enters with an announcement: Angela’s body has been found in the Thames. Her purse was found with her. It contained, among other things, sleeping pills, cold medicine, a brand new toothbrush, and several large rocks. Her death appears to have been a suicide, but neither Julian nor Stevie is convinced.

Later, Stevie finds a distraught Izzy curled up with David on his bed. Stevie, Janelle, Vi, and Nate are leaving for London. David says he needs to stay back and help Izzy, who is in shock after the announcement about her aunt’s death. Stevie feels jealous, but she leaves anyway.

That night in London, Stevie goes to Izzy’s room. David is with her. Stevie wants to spend her last night in England with David. He says he needs to stay with Izzy, who is wrecked, for a little while longer but that he’ll come to Stevie’s room when he’s done. He doesn’t come that night or communicate with her at all.

With only a few hours left before she’s supposed to be boarding a plane for the U.S., Stevie finally finds David. He tells her he doesn’t think their relationship is going to work out. Then he walks away without another glance.

Stevie, Nate, Vi, and Janelle head to Heathrow Airport. Stevie is churned up about the breakup with David and the fact that she has not solved the murders. While the others board their plane, she takes a train to get back to Angela’s apartment, where Izzy is waiting for her. Stevie looks around, trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. She retrieves the bags of garbage from Angela’s trash bin that she had examined before. She finds a receipt and declares she knows what happened. She asks Izzy to set up a meeting with The Nine on the London Eye.

How did Nine Liars end?

Although Izzy tells the remaining members of The Nine that the meeting is a memorial for Angela, it’s really a chance for Stevie to confront them about the murders. Stevie tells them that

Angela was desperate to solve the murders, so she pretended to have a clue (the “button” mentioned in her text message) that would lure out the killer. Within minutes someone called her. She left her home to meet this person and ended up murdered.

Stevie tells the group her theory (most of which is confirmed through flashbacks). It started with Samantha Garvis. Julian, who got all the girls, was making out with Samantha at the pub, which made Peter jealous. He left the bar in disgust. When he got home, he told Rosie what Julian was doing. She broke up with him that night. Upset, Rosie found comfort in Noel’s arms. The next night, Samantha was at the bar again. Peter watched—jealous again—as Julian ignored her, but Yash started chatting her up. The next night, Peter did not go to the pub with the others. He was walking home from a study session when he saw a drunk Samantha wobbling down the path next to the river. She was happy and flirty, which pleased Peter. Samantha suggested they steal a boat and row down the river to the house where The Nine lived together. She slipped somehow, hit her head, then started screaming at Peter that she was going to turn him into the police for pushing her. He couldn’t let that happen, so he held her head under water until she drowned.

The next day, Rosie was acting odd, like she knew something. The group would be leaving that day for Merryweather. That morning, the news about Samantha’s body being found came out in the newspaper. Peter could tell that Rosie was putting together what had really happened to the American tourist. At Merryweather, Peter secretly switched his keys with Sebastian’s keys to the manor house and its outbuildings. Peter heard Rosie telling Sooz that she needed to talk to her about something important. Desperate not to be outed by Rosie, Peter knew he had to kill her. He convinced Rosie to meet him in the woodshed. There, she told him that she and Noel saw him on the night he killed Samantha. Peter killed her with the ax to keep her quiet. Then, he lured Noel out of his hiding spot, led him to the woodshed, and murdered him as well.

After killing two people, Peter returned to the house, where he had to quickly switch back his keys with Sebastian’s as Sebastian tried unsuccessfully to unlock the liquor cabinet. Peter made sure he was seen going to bed. After the others were in their rooms, he snuck back out to the woodshed and made it look like the place had been burgled. Then, to confuse the timeline more, he snuck around outside with a flashlight—the odd light that Sooz saw.

When Angela texted the group about the button, Peter panicked. He called Angela and she immediately left her apartment to go meet him. He killed her and tried to make it look like a suicide by drowning. The toothbrush Angela was carrying tipped Stevie off that she was meeting Peter, whose house she had stayed at recently. Most likely, the thoughtful Angela had borrowed a toothbrush from him and wanted to replace it.

Although Peter does not confess to the crimes, he does get angry. The other members of The Nine are shocked, but they are determined to check Peter’s story to confirm everything Stevie said.

As Stevie and Izzy walk back to Izzy’s place, Stevie confesses that she has been jealous of Izzy and David. Izzy is incredulous since they have always only been friends. In fact, says Izzy, all David talks about is Stevie. According to Izzy, David broke up with her because he was afraid of losing her. To prove it, Izzy texts David. He tells her to come to the pub where he is currently getting very drunk. When they arrive, they see David in a booth with another person. The book ends with these lines: “She could see the back of his coat. His head. But his face was missing. That was because it was pressed into another.”

There you go! That’s what happened in Nine Liars. We hope you enjoyed this Nine Liars summary with spoilers.

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truly devious
the vanishing stair
the hand on the wall
the box in the woods
nine liars

Special thanks to Susan Jensen, a BSR contributor, who wrote this great recap! Visit her blog to check out what she’s reading and see what’s on her mind. Don’t forget to follow Susan on Goodreads and Facebook!

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