When last we heard from Snicket, narrator of the painfully sad but immensely popular stories about the miserable Baudelaire orphans, many mysteries had been left unresolved, chief among them, perhaps, what the heck was the VFD?
Now Snicket returns with this first in a projected four-volume autobiographical account of his unusual childhood that will perhaps clear up some unanswered questions. Everything we know about the labyrinthine nature of Snicket’s storytelling suggests otherwise, but a reader can hope. Certainly, Who Could That Be at This Hour delivers another absorbing read, which may, in many cases, be followed by a dull headache as one attempts to puzzle through Snicket’s confounding narration. In other words, if you liked A Series of Unfortunate Events, you will LOVE this.
Young Snicket, almost age 13, begins his story as he is starting his apprenticeship for a mysterious organization (presumably the aforementioned VFD) under the stern tutelage of S. Theodora Markson, the dimwitted mentor he had hoped to be assigned to, despite the fact that she is ranked dead last in the agency’s effectiveness rankings. (Snicket obviously has other fish to fry and wanted to be paired with someone who wouldn’t notice.)
But instead of an assignment in the city he’s been raised in, Theodora and Lemony head out in her roadster to investigate a theft in a seaside town that’s been drained of its sea, which, naturally, is located near a forest without trees. They encounter conundrums at every turn, beginning with the theft itself. Why would someone report something stolen that was never theirs to begin with? Snicket wonders.
During the investigation, we meet sub-librarian Dashiell Qwerty, the brothers Pip and Squeak, who run a taxi service, and Moxie Mallahan, whose family ran the town newspaper until they ran out of ink. More new mysteries are introduced than old ones solved, but you probably guessed that already. Another story full of Snicket’s smarty-pants wordplay and exceedingly droll humor, the only problem with this series opener is that it ends, (as in ceases, not completes) leaving readers to twist in the wind as they desperately await the release of volume two.
Reviewed by SC
THEMES: Eccentrics and Eccentricities, Humor, Vocabulary, Mystery and Detective Stories
Little, Brown, 2012
Suggested Ages: 9-12