Illustrations by Seth
“I followed Theodora along the driveway and up a long set of brick stairs to the front door, where she rang the doorbell six times in a row. It felt like the wrong thing to do, standing at the wrong door in the wrong place. We did it anyway. Knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway happens very often in life, and I doubt I will ever know why.”
Published as a small chunky hardback, this is the first in a new Lemony Snicket series. The earnest narrator is a nearly thirteen year-old Snicket who describes his apprenticeship with the V.F.D. – the mysterious clandestine organisation that often lurked menacingly just out of sight in the mega-selling ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’.
While ‘Unfortunate Events’ was inspired by Victoria Gothic, The Wrong Questions is a love letter to noir detective fiction. In this opening mystery, young Snicket is assigned to track down and return a missing statue of the ‘Bombinating Beast’ to its rightful owners. The plot has the fingerprints of The Maltese Falcon all over it.
As ever, much of the joy comes from the cast of eccentric supporting characters that Snicket encounters along the way in inspired locations like ‘The Hemlock Tearoom and Stationary Shop’ and ‘Stain’d-by-the-Sea’, a town once famous for its octopus ink. The atmosphere of the nearly deserted seaside town, felt to me like we’d wandered into a holiday resort run by H.P. Lovecraft, the horror writer.
Will nasty villain ‘Hangfire’ get what’s coming to him? And will we ever learn why so many people are terrified of a question mark shaped shadow in the ocean? Probably not, but there are three more books in the series anyway. The next one is out in October 2013.