The Beatrice Letters is, first and foremost, a volume of supplemental material that is "suspiciously linked" to the thirteenth book of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Like Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, it is full of confusing and seemingly contradictory (or just ridiculous) information about the mystery surrounding the Baudelaire orphans. (Or ARE THEY? Dun-dun-DUN!)

Strangely enough, it does consist largely of letters. Like the ones in the alphabet, those kinds of letters. And I don't mean just in the pages. There are color illustrations by the usual artist of the series, Brett Helquist, and perforated letters are included to be punched out of these paintings. In this order, E E N S I K R A C T A B, the immediate supposition is that the reader is supposed to make a message out of them, because all throughout the series people encode their messages as scrambled words.

The format of the book is very much like a file folder, and inside the cover is a book of correspondence between Lemony Snicket and Beatrice Baudelaire, and also a very cool and mysterious two-sided poster, which has paintings that correspond to the designs on the punch-out letters. However, if you apply each letter on the poster where it "goes," there is no clear message. It looks like an eye chart.

Each art page with a punch-out letter on it is followed by correspondence either from or to Lemony Snicket . . . and as you can imagine, if it is FROM Mr. Snicket, it is TO Beatrice, and if it is FROM Beatrice, it is TO . . . well, you get the idea. The letters following the pages with the punch-out letters often have that same letter somewhere on them in a mysterious way--a drawing, a map, a notation . . . but always obvious. If the letter doesn't have a coded alphabet letter on it, it is immediately followed by some kind of illustration or figure that does (such as the "S" page being followed by a photograph of a snake-shaped paperweight, or the "C" page being followed by a photo of a curved lock of hair).

Obviously very fond of one another, Beatrice and Lemony Snicket exchange letters wishing to see one another as B.B. tries to track L.S. down, always full of codes and "IF you're who I think you are." It is inundated with lovely quotes such as "I never want to be apart from you again, Beatrice, except in the restroom, at work, and when one of us is at a movie that the other does not want to see."

Many clues are dropped in this collection of letters, the most surprising of which is the insinuation that (gasp) there are actually two separate Beatrice Baudelaires. As if things weren't confusing enough in this world of anagrams, initials, and disguises, we now have two people with the same name. . . .

Unfortunately, if you try to arrange the letters so that they make sense, the most obvious message they make out is "Beatrice Sank." And "Beatrice" is also a boat. So we're left with no special clues on that, and are instead left to puzzle with even more silly evidence and red herrings aplenty. Somehow I have the feeling that we will just have to read The End in order to get the completion of the story, but the possibility that there will still be mysteries to solve even after all is said and done is very high. . . .

I'm not sure if I should go light a fire to burn this volume or if I should go to Kinko's, because the back of the book requests that the book both be destroyed and copied. Is it any wonder that such a book makes a person want to gnaw his own teeth out (yes, with the very teeth that will be removing the teeth)? I think that last sentence is less paradoxical than the volume I'm describing. . . .

In any case A Series of Unfortunate Events fans are sure to be entertained--if somewhat confused--by this collection of letters to and from the famous Beatrice.

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