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Review - "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"
by Lemony Snicket
Little, Brown Young Readers, 2012
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 18th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 51)

Fans of The Series of Unfortunate Events will be pleased to have more work by Lemony Snicket, set in the same universe as that of the Baudelaire siblings.  This series, "All the Wrong Questions," features Lemony Snicket as its main hero.  In the former series, Lemony was an elusive figure who seemed to be on the side of the Baudelaires but who they never actually met.  In this first book of the new series, there's no mention of the Baudelaires, so the main connection is in the style of writing: Snicket (the nom de plume of Daniel Handler) uses many of the same commonly repeated phrases and the cast of characters is similarly striking and bizarre. 

The plot is complicated.  Lemony is nearly 13 years old, and he has arranged to become an apprentice to a private detective of sorts, S. Theodora Markson, who he has chosen, bizarrely, for her ineptitude.  She takes him on a case in which a sculpture of the Bominating Beast has been stolen in the town by the sea, called Stain'd-by-the-Sea.  In his investigation, he meets many colorful and odd people, and he takes their quirkiness in his stride.  While the Baudelaire siblings were orphans, they had each other, while Lemony seems very solitary.  He does meet a girl who is friendly to him, but they don't even really manage to become friends. 

This story is more subdued than those in the earlier series: the drama is not so life threatening, and there are no deaths at all.  Yet the tone of the narration is consistently reflective and droll.  If there are not the same pronouncements of gloom and doom that accompanied the Unfortunate Events, there is not only mystery here, but also a sense of randomness and disconnection facing young people.  The reader of the unabridged audiobook, Liam Aiken, keeps the tone very steady and understated, with a strong hint of melancholy.  So this book does not have the same initial impact and appeal of the opening volume of the former series, yet it is still pleasing enough to make it worth listening to.

 

© 2012 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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