'Shouldn't you be in school?' by Lemony Snicket
All the Wrong Questions series, bk 3. Hardie Grant, 2014. ISBN
This book, part three in an exciting mystery quartet, left me wanting to catch up on the previous two instalments. Though this book stands alone with some questions answered at the end, Snicket's 'autobiography' has his usual clever humour and unending list of cryptic mysteries that keep you guessing.
There's been a fire and the town librarian is arrested; 13-year-old Snicket and his sidekick are hired to find the villain. Sounds simple, but this is a Lemony Snicket case and things go from bad to worse when he discovers he's been asking the wrong questions all along. As a series of arson attacks follow, it's up to Snicket to find out exactly what the evil Hangfire is up to.
The mystery is perfectly paced and the true pleasure is in the way the writing captivates the reader and makes us care deeply about quirky Snicket and his friends who lose their school to arson. We immediately detest the villain, even though his presence is cloaked for much of the book. As in An Unfortunate Series of Events, the young heroes (this time Snicket himself) make us wish we could invite them to tea and perhaps help them solve the mystery ourselves. Writer Daniel Handler throws incredible wit into otherwise dark and grim situations and makes the evil-doings of adults seem a piece of cake for young Snicket to handle. Retro ilustrations by Seth add to the nostalgic feel to the setting, with great effect. This series will be loved by older Snicket fans and a great introduction to him for younger readers.