Who Could That Be at This Hour?
All the Wrong Questions, 1
Art by Seth
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
If you have ever read a book by Lemony Snicket – (in)famously known for the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books – then you know that straight-forward narrative is not his style. And this first of a series of 4 books is no exception. Even as it opens, the author takes for granted the reader knows what’s going on and doesn’t bother to explain any of the odd events. It would be easy to say ‘forget it!’, throw the book away and move on; but don’t do it! The mystery of what’s going on is the thing!
Anyway, as the book opens we are introduced to the narrator, who happens to be an almost 13 – year old boy named Lemony Snicket who is in the company of whom we assume to be his parents, but it turns out they aren’t; he escapes with his chaperone and heads toward a town called Stain’d by the Sea to perform an as yet unknown mission of unknown importance. Got it? Don’t worry if you don’t! That’s all a part of Lemony Snicket!
*Lemony Snicket, a boy who has gone to an unnamed school and had an unusual education. His schooling has been in various underground arts, like breaking into houses, spying on people and investigating the unknown. He is hoping to be placed with a chaperone in the city so he can break into the local museum with an unnamed friend, but instead he is paired with a chaperone who takes him out of the city to a near-deserted town to perform a mission.
*Moxie Mallahan, a young girl of about the same age who lives in a light house with her father. Her family used to publish the local newspaper but as the ink wells have slowly dried up and Stain’d by the Sea turned into a ghost town, the newspaper shut down. However, she always carries her typewriter and whips it out at anytime to record the news. It is her house Lemony and his chaperone must break into to steal the statue of the Bombinating Beast. (⇓)
*S. Theodora Markson, Lemony’s chaperone, who out of ranks 52 out of 52 chaperones and is totally clueless about what is really going on. As in most books written for young adult/middle grades, she, like most adults, is rather inept at her job and it is up to Lemony to make sense of the madness.
*Ellington Feint, a young girl, a little older than Lemony, who enlists his help to find her kidnapped father. The ransom?: the same Bombinating Beast statue Lemony is hunting for.
*Hangfire, the kidnapper of Mr. Feint and a man of multiple disguises and voices; we don’t actually meet him in this book but he does try to kill several people in town and seems to be quite frightening.
*Pip and Squeak, young brothers who drive their father’s taxi because he is either asleep or sick. Pip sits on a stack of books to steer and see over the dashboard and Squeak sits on the floor operating the pedals. The give Lemony rides about town for ‘tips’.
*Dashiell Qwerty, the Sub-Librarian of the local library where Lemony communicates with his friend in town by sending requests for oddly named books to the library in the city.
Through the course of the book Lemony finds the Bombinating Beast statue and loses it twice. He is baffled by what is going on in this odd little town with its quirky inhabitants and worried for his friend in the city. In order to get to the bottom of the mess he has to learn to ask the right questions to get the right answers. So far he is not doing a good job.
Lemony Snicket is one of those authors that I have to give up trying to fit the story inside my head and just go with it (Jasper Fforde is another of those authors). His books are not quite fantasy but their not ‘realistic’ either. For instance, the town Stain’d by the Sea is no longer by the sea as it has been drained in order to facilitate ink harvesting. (If you want to know how to harvest ink, you’ll have to read the book!) Anyway, if you are willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride of a good mystery story where I dare you to figure out what’s going on, you’ll enjoy this book!
Rating 4 out of 5 paws!
Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
Both images from the ATWQ’s Facebook Page