Wrong question, right book

What happened to his parents?

Where is that screaming coming from?

Is it too late?

This book contains these and other wrong questions.

Thus begins the dust jacket for “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket. I, however, didn’t see this description initially. When I experienced book one in the All the Wrong Questions series, I was listening to the story on CD. Liam Aiken, who played Klaus in the movie adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, performed the audio version. Between his cadence and Snicket’s prose I was hooked.

Our story begins at the Hemlock Tearoom and Stationery Shop where twelve-year-old Lemony Snicket is about to have tea with his parents. Having just graduated, he is soon to board a train for a new life, a new adventure. But then he receives this note, and all his carefully laid plans go up in smoke:

Climb out the window in the bathroom and meet me in the alley behind the shop. I will be waiting in the green roadster. You have five minutes. —S

The adventure begins! Soon Snicket is off with a stranger, a one S. Theodora Markson. He is now her apprentice and she is now his chaperon. They set off for a small coastal town called Stain’d-by-the Sea, where his training is to commence. It’s not an ordinary town, however. The ocean has been somewhat drained. There are large machines extracting octopus ink from those living in the remaining waters. Octopus ink is very dark and the reason the town got its odd name. There’s also the Clusterous Forest, which was once under the sea but is now home to seaweed that learned to grow on dry land. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you enter the Clusterous Forest.

Lemony and S. Theodora’s first client is Stain’d-by-the-Sea’s elderly matriarch, Mrs. Murphy Sallis. A priceless item, a frightening statue of something called the Bombinating Beast, has been stolen from Mrs. Sallis. It’s up to our fearless heroes to solve the case and return the beast to its rightful owner.

But, as in real life, not everything is just as it seems. The town, once thriving on the ink exports, has died off. The newspaper has closed and many of the shops are closed as well. In fact, the only places that still appear to be open are the inn, the coffee shop, and the library. Those who would appear to be knowledgeable, or even trustworthy, may in fact be deceitful or, quite frankly, stupid.

As the plot unravels and secrets are exposed, things get very dangerous for young Mr. Snicket. Will he be able to recover the Bombinating Beast? Will he even survive his apprenticeship?

Fans of Lemony Snicket will adore this tome. This is my first foray into his work and I am happy to say I am hooked. While the story of the Bombinating Beast is resolved at the end of the book, the overarching storyline that is Lemony Snicket’s apprenticeship continues on.

Book two in the All the Wrong Questions series won’t be out until October. While this distresses me, as someone who really wants to ask more wrong questions right along with Mr. Snicket, I am appeased by knowing that I can make this series last and savor it like a chewy caramel with my cup of tea. But definitely not tea from the Hemlock.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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