When did you see her last? Did you get the message? What’s for breakfast? Who has the formula? Where could she have gone? Where is Cleo Knight? When did she go missing? What was she wearing when she left? How about some tea? Do you know the one about the big fight over an apple and a pretty woman? The one that ends with a hollow statue and a ghost who likes to bury things?
These are all questions from Lemony Snicket’s second book in the new series All the Wrong Questions. Some of the above questions are nearly right, but they’re all the wrong questions. In When Did You See Her Last? from the rapidly deteriorating town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, Lemony himself narrates his adventures as an apprentice detective to the inept S. Theodora Markson. The case is the disappearance of the wealthy young chemist, Cleo Knight. Lemony is a rather melancholy young man of mystery in this noir detective story for middle grade readers.
Fans of the wildly popular A Series of Unfortunate Events will applaud this new series by the same author, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). And since in this particular series Mr. Snicket gets to be both author and character, we are treated to more insight into the narrator’s life and circumstances, even though Lemony Snicket remains somewhat of an enigma. Something is going on with his sister in another town in an underground tunnel? And in the first book in the series (which I haven’t read) Mr. Snicket and his associates find and lose a statue in the shape of the Bombinating Beast? It’s all slightly esoteric, but still loads of fun, especially the wordplay, literary allusions, and droll humor.
In addition to questions, there are also answers, or at least aphorisms. Try some of these on for size:
“Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh from the oven is a friend for life.”
“Boredom is not black licorice. . . . There’s no reason to share it.”
“Do the scary thing first, and get scared later.”
“The world is a puzzle, and we cannot solve it alone.”
“They can teach you anything. That doesn’t mean you learn it. It doesn’t mean you believe it.”
“It doesn’t matter if you look ridiculous, not if you are with people you know and trust.”
You’ll have to make up your own questions. Maybe they will be the right questions. Maybe not. But if you enjoy slightly nonsensical, noirish adventures in which the main point and backstory of the series is Yet To Be Revealed, you might want to check out Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions. I’d suggest, unlike me, that you start with the first book in the series, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, proceed immediately to the second, and then to the third in the series, Shouldn’t You Be In School?
From Amazon (in case you are not familiar with the author’s rather wacky style): “Author Lemony Snicket is a broken man, wracked with misery and despair as a result of writing ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’. He spends his days wandering the countryside weeping and moaning and his evenings eating hastily-prepared meals. He has also written the mystery series ‘All the Wrong Questions’. Artist Seth is no stranger to a town that is fading. He is a multi-award-winning cartoonist, author, and artist, whose works include’ Palookaville’, ‘Clyde Fan’s, and ‘The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists’. He lives in Guelph, Canada.”