"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" (All the Wrong Questions)
Lemony Snicket returns with another middle reader series, All the Wrong Questions. In it, a young Lemony Snicket investigates a robbery where he notes all of the mistakes he makes along the way. This is the first of four books all titled and centered on a wrong question that he asks during the investigation.
The book begins with Lemony sitting with who appear to be his parents, waiting for a train to come and take him off to some sort of training. However, when a woman with large hair comes into the café and drops a note in his lap, he leaves through the bathroom window without even finishing his tea. He isn’t going to take the train to the city at all --- the plans have changed.
"'WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?' is snappy, dark and full of eloquent vocabulary that Snicket creatively defines for the reader. It is clear that these books are written with a great level of trust in the readers to pick up on slight clues and nonsense that is riddled within the plot."
It becomes quite obvious that the woman who is to be Lemony’s chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, is pretty incompetent as a spy…or whoever she is exactly. It is never actually said what training it is Snicket is going through, but it is clearly unconventional, even if every child wishes that mystery-solving was standard in every school. Soon, Theodora and Lemony are in Stain’d-by-the-Sea, a deserted seaside town that is no longer by the sea and whose main export, octopus ink for pens, is in decline.
The case they are trying to solve is about a missing statue, the Bombinating Beast, which turns out to never have been missing and never the property of who reports it missing. Through encounters with the librarian, the only journalist left in town, a pair young taxi drivers and a runaway orphan, Snicket comes to understand that the person who wants this statue is actually a criminal who is hiding out in the town. This case seems to be more complicated that it originally seemed.
There are an incredible amount of loose ends that I’m interested to see picked up in the next volumes. Since the couple at the beginning of the novel are not Snickct’s parents, then what happened to them? The reason he chose Theodora as his chaperone is because he needed time working on another project in the city --- but what is it? And finally, what exactly is he training to be?
Just like the Series of Unfortunate Events books that I have read before, “WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?” is snappy, dark and full of eloquent vocabulary that Snicket creatively defines for the reader. It is clear that these books are written with a great level of trust in the readers to pick up on slight clues and nonsense that is riddled within the plot. In addition, Seth’s two-tone illustrations throughout the novel accentuate the noir tone of Snicket’s writing and helps give context to the important mystery scenes.
Reviewed by Liz Kossnar on November 7, 2012