I should have asked the question “How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?” Instead, I asked the wrong question—four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.
In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.
First sentence: “There was a town, and there was a statue, and there was a person who had been kidnapped.”
Previously on All the Wrong Questions series, young Lemony Snicket arrived in the bleak town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea with his apprentice Theodora S. Markson and was tasked to find the Bombinating Beast statue that has gone missing. Along the way, Snicket encountered various suspects and witnesses that helped and misled him on his case, which ultimately led him to realize that there was more than meets the eye and that there was a bigger foe, Hangfire, pulling the strings. Are the questions I brought up in my review of “Who Can That Be At This Hour?” answered? Who knows unless you read “When Did You See Her Last?” the second book of the All the Wrong Questions. We shall see now.
In “When Did You See Her Last?”, Snicket and the incompetent Theodora S. Markson is called upon to find a missing teenager, Cleo Knight, who may be in the clutches of the suspicious apothecary doctor who takes care of the Knight’s. As Snicket investigates (while Theodora continues to dismiss Snicket’s suspicions), he continues to ponder about his sister and Ellington Feint, and realizes that the case of the missing girl is somehow related to Hangfire. This is the story.
In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He began asking questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not have been published, in four volumes that shouldn’t be read. This is the first volume.
Before you consider reading “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you curious about what is happening in a seaside town that is no longer by the sea?
2. Do you want to know more about a stolen item that wasn’t stolen at all?
3. Do you really think that’s any of your business? Why? What kind of person are you? Are you sure?
4. Who is that standing behind you?
First sentence: “There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft.”
I have a big soft spot for Lemony Snicket books, so I automatically love everything about this book – the characters, the surprisingly humorous yet somber tone, the irony in the characters’ actions and dialogue. I get nostalgic when I think about the world that
Daniel Handler Lemony Snicket created. It’s so rich with tongue-in-cheek jokes. I cannot get enough of it. Who Could That Be At This Hour? is the first book of Lemony Snicket’s new series, All The Wrong Questions. It serves as a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events and follows a young Lemony Snicket as he begins his apprenticeship under S. Theodora Markson, searching for a not-so-lost statute called the Bombinating Beast to return it to its rightful owner in the desolate town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. In the process of tracking down this item that everybody seemed to be after, Snicket meets an eclectic group of characters who sort-of-not-really help him on his endeavor. By the end of the book, you’ll find yourself asking all the wrong questions about this case and what the future holds for young Snicket.
NOIR DETECTIVE STORY
Who Could That Be At This Hour? is not your normal detective story. Oh no. Sure, we get a case, suspects, a femme fatale (of sorts), and double crossings, but the characters and the writing make the story…odd? The detective should certainly be competent, right? Let me tell you, S. Theodora Markson is not. Worst detective ever! (No wonder she’s number 52 on the chaperone list.) Seeing Snicket and Theodora in action, I would pick a kid to help me find something over an experienced detective because if I went to Theodora for help, I’m pretty sure she’d try to convince me that no such thing existed in the first place. Although her incompetence can get a bit annoying, it’s quite humorous to read. Also, in a noir detective story, the stolen item would be returned to its rightful owner and the bad guy would’ve been revealed, right? Yeah, not here. (Perhaps because this is a four parter story.) I would say this book is very much of a parody of the typical noir detective story. Perfect for kids!
Lemony Snicket is what I like to call an unreliable narrator. He’s obviously keeping a lot of information from the readers, especially the important bits of the story (the ones you really want to know like what he’s really doing). I feel absolutely clueless when it comes to the entire mystery of Lemony Snicket and the Bombinating Beast. He’s purposely evasive, throwing the usual definitions, fancy wordplays, and quick-witted remarks that distracts and floors me. For instance, we get this wonderful gem:
There’s an easy method for finding someone when you hear them scream. First, get a clean sheet of paper and a sharp pencil. Then sketch out nine rows of fourteen squares each. Then throw the piece of paper away and find whoever is screaming so you can help them. (169)
You can’t help but appreciate the irony and mockery that comes out of Lemony Snicket. His pieces of wisdom are truly picture frame-worthy.
Some of the names in this book are absolutely ridiculous, but I can’t help but admire how lovely they are. At times, I feel like it’s an elaborate inside joke I desperately need to figure out.
I get pretty excited reading these names because it reminds me of my love for naming. (I’m pretty sure A Series of Unfortunate Events started my fascination with names and their meanings.) I do admit that some of these are not creative, but that doesn’t make them less amusing. I like that Snicket (the writer) is playing with words. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I really like that.
What this book does is leave you with a hell of a lot of questions by the time you’re finished and that does not surprise me. (This series is called All the Wrong Questions.) These are the questions that are stuck in my mind, and I’m pretty sure it’s all the wrong questions.
- What is the deal with the chaperones? Why did Snicket pick the worst chaperone?
- What organization is he part of? (Does it have to do with his involvement with VFD? Or does VFD come later?)
- Who is Hangfire? And why does he want the Bombinating Beast statue?
- What’s this about Snicket’s sister?
- Why does he have to break into a museum?
I have plenty of other questions, but they aren’t coming to me at the moment! (I blame the fact that there are too many of them to put into coherent sentences.) If you’re the type of person who needs questions to be answered, then maybe you should steer clear of this book? You can say it’s very nonsensical. I enjoy that sometimes.
If you’re a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Lemony Snicket, you should go read this book. It isn’t quite like A Series of Unfortunate Events, where you always feel a sense of foreboding for the Baudelaire children. Who Could That Be At This Hour? is much lighter in tone, but it still contains wonderful word play and literary references (which I, myself, cannot identify). Be forewarned that you’ll find yourself with so many questions that will probably be left unanswered for the next book, but it’s very enjoyable.