Who Could That Be At This Hour?
By Lemony Snicket
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
This is the first book in the All The Wrong Questions series, a mystery series by the same author as the popular Series of Unfortunate Events.
Lemony Snicket, as a young boy, was apparently an apprentice... detective? Spy? Professional problem solver? Well, something anyway. Unfortunately, he misplanned his apprenticeship, and he has the least competent teacher imaginable, a woman who believes that maintaining her image and sticking to her guns is more important than reality, someone who has each case planned out in her head before she learns what's going on, someone who refuses to answer even the most simple questions... such as her name.
Well, actually he planned that. What he misplanned was where and when his apprenticeship was going to start. His cunning plan to do something mysterious with an unknown and unauthorized companion is ruined when his incompetent teacher shows up too early and in the wrong place, and quickly whisks him off to an even more wrong place. And starts asking all of the wrong questions.
Stain'd-by-the-sea is an dead town. The sea has dried up, and the town's central industry, harvesting ink from octopi, is on its last legs. Lemony and S (don't ask what the S stands for) have been hired to find a stolen figurine of the Bombinating Beast. The lady that hired them probably never owned the figurine, but that is not really a fact that S is interested in.
It quickly emerges that Lemony is just as competent as S is incompetent, and that there is a good sized network of useful and interesting people who are willing to help as long as he keeps them supplied with useful tidbits of information. Unfortunately, most of them are kids, and have limited power against the incompetent local police and an mysterious evil force that is determined to find an odd little statue by any means necessary.
This is an engaging book, and despite being a children's novel, it is certainly well-written and obtuse enough to entertain adult readers. It has a lot of the same stylistic marks that made A Series of Unfortunate Events popular, with a new and twistier plot. I suspect that a lot of this book's popularity is due to young adults and adult adults that are long-time Lemony Snicket fans. Younger readers may take a few chapters to get into the flow of things, but once you get a few chapters in, I think that anyone will be hooked.
The first book doesn't really answer many of the right questions, so you will want to move directly on to the second book, "When Did You See Her Last?".
Accelerated Reader Level: 5.5