Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lemony mystery

Lemony Snicket is best known as the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, a sequence of funny, strange books, aimed at children but quite popular with adults too. They draw not only upon Snicket’s rich imagination but also the images and iconography of the gothic horror genre. 

His new book, Who Could That Be At This Hour, stars a young protagonist named Lemony Snicket, and fits into the tradition of jazz-age noir mysteries.

Who Could It Be At This Hour is the first of a proposed series of four, called All The Wrong Questions. Snicket escapes from his parents (are they really his parents?) and begins an apprenticeship in a shadowy, nameless organization. He and his mentor, S. Theodora Markson (what does the S stand for?), come to the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea to investigate a burglary.

Was there really a burglary? Why is the town called Stain’d-by-the-Sea when it isn’t by the sea? Why do they have to wear masks when they approach the town? If those people Snicket escaped from weren’t his parents, then who were they? And where are his parents? Are these the right questions?

I will confess I didn’t quite manage to get through all the volumes of the mega-popular Series of Unfortunate Events books; I thought they were hilarious in small doses but tough to take en masse. And I’m a little concerned that this series is going to present the reader with more questions than it answers.

However, Who Could It Be At This Hour is extremely entertaining, with a fun, twisty plot, and all of Snicket’s trademark descriptive playfulness:

 The Hemlock Tearoom and Stationery Shop is the sort of place where the floors always feel dirty, even when they are clean. They were not clean on the day in question. The food at the Hemlock is too awful to eat, particularly the eggs, which are probably the worst eggs in the entire city, including those on exhibit at the Museum of Bad Breakfast, where visitors can learn just how badly eggs can be prepared. 

If you are one of the millions who loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, this is a no-brainer. Who Could That Be At This Hour seems to be full of allusions and hints about the events that took place in those books, so it is a must-read for you.

And if, like me, you admired but did not necessarily make it through those books, you might want to give Who Could That Be At This Hour a try anyway. I liked it.

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