Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: "Who Could That Be At This Hour?

I will read anything by the incomparable Lemony Snicket. I find his dark flavor and unique writing style charming and I relish his signature linguistic humor, especially his twisty definitions. For example:

"What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet. You can wash it, and wash it, and still never forget what has transpired - a word which here means 'happened, and made everybody sad'." 

For those who may not know, Lemony Snicket is the pen name for American novelist Daniel Handler. Be that as it may, I still hear his books in a British accent in my head as I read them. Makes me wonder if he hears British while he writes... The signature face-hidden-from-the-camera photos of Snicket are like a little humorous bonus at the end of each book. I love running gags and visual humor and especially clever usage of language. As such, I was so excited when I saw there was a new Snicket book out. I highly recommend you check out the site for the book located here. Too funny. I adore glib, cheeky, dark chuckles.

"Who Could That Be" delivers on the expected mystery, incredible illustrations (by a man known only as 'Seth') and tasty linguistic fun. Snicket himself is the protagonist of the story, at the age of 12, having recently finished "an unusual education". He embarks on an adventurous apprenticeship with a Snicket-style helpless, hapless adult and becomes entangled in a deepening, layered mystery-- all the while asking all the wrong questions. He also becomes involved in the lives of other uncommonly intelligent youth, surrounded by even more feckless adults. It's amusing and lightly entertaining, but I was left feeling rather disappointed.

Spoiler alert: The mystery does not get solved. Not even close. I am weary of books that are written for the sole purpose of initiating a sequel or series. I don't mind series, but I like a book to have some measure of resolution between it's covers. As indicated on the first page of the website linked above, this is the first of a "sequence" of books, and it feels like a very long first chapter, which is mildly annoying to a book devourer like myself. Had I realized this before reading it, I might have just waited for the rest of the sequence to be released.

Even when I have complaints about Snicket's books (which I also did with the final book of the "Series of Unfortunate Events"),  I still enjoy every word. My favorite Snicket book so far is still "Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid", which is a deliciously slanted little book of darkly humorous quotes from a uniquely Snicket-ish point of view.

I look forward to reading the rest of "The Wrong Questions", but I'm disappointed that this book left me feeling empty. A word which means here 'unfairly teased by a favorite author'.

No comments: