"In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast."

This is the very BAD beginning of the Baudelaire orphans' trials and tribulations. Mostly trials. In this opening work of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, Lemony Snicket introduces us to three children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, who immediately lose their parents in a house fire and must be taken by Mr. Poe to be placed in the care of a distant relative. This distant relative of theirs turns out to be Count Olaf, whose first despicable act is making the Baudelaires cook and clean for him. (He also calls them "orphans" instead of children or by their names, as if they need reminding.) Olaf insists on inviting his acting troupe to his house and having the Baudelaires cook dinner for them. Eventually Olaf cooks up a plot to have Violet "act" in a play with a real judge playing the part of the priest, to make her unwittingly marry him to give him access to the fortune she and her siblings will inherit when she comes of age. He blackmails her into cooperating by sealing Sunny, the baby, in a cage, and threatening to kill her if she does not go along with the plot. Ultimately, she does not end up marrying Olaf and he is shown as a fraud and a thief, but he gets away at the end, and the Baudelaires are left to go on to the next guardian in A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS book two; The Reptile Room.