A little over a year ago, I was in Venice Beach, California, browsing Small World Books, petting the bookstore cat Conan the Librarian and wishing I wasn't traveling on such a tight budget so that I could spare the cash to buy the first book in Lemony Snicket's All the Wrong Questions series, Who Could That Be At This Hour? I never did buy a copy, but I did borrow it from my local library.
On Wednesday of last week I walked over to my library and picked up a copy of the series' second book, When Did You See Her Last? The "her" in question is the brilliant young chemist Miss Cleo Knight, missing from her family's home in the mysterious town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea (once known for its octopus ink). Our protagonist, 13-year-old Lemony Snicket, must search for her despite adults like his guardian S. Theodora Markson.
As you probably recall from A Series of Unfortunate Events, adults in Lemony Snicket's books are generally ineffective at best and downright wicked at worst. S. Theodora Markson is the ineffective type (at least, from what we know at this point). Snicket gets more reliable help from local teen journalist Moxie Mallahan and underaged taxi cab drivers Pip and Squeak, the Bellerophon brothers.
I finished this book Saturday morning. I find this series delightful, not only as a companion series to A Series of Unfortunate Events, but also in its own right. One of my favorite things about it is the way Snicket makes humorous and pithy observations in his narrative. This book contains several memorable quotes, as Snicket's books often do. Several of these I added to Goodreads myself, including:
“I'm not a stranger," I said, and pointed to his book. "I'm someone who reads the same authors you do.”
“Complimenting someone in an exaggerated way is known as flattery, and flattery will generally get you anything you want...”
“[I]t was the color of someone buying you an ice cream cone for no reason at all.”
“Of course you can trust me," Jake Hix said. "We read the same books.”
“I don't know why wicked places generally look wicked. You'd think they'd look nice, to fool people, but they hardly ever do.”
“Anyone who thinks the pen is mightier than the sword has not been stabbed with both.”
Another favorite thing? Dashiell Qwerty, the sub-librarian who always wears a studded black leather jacket and has wild, spiky hair.
Another fictional crush for me? Yes, I'm afraid so.
The literary references fly fast and furious as well. I don't even know all of them (I can't have read everything), but Pippi Longstocking is discussed at some length, Jane Eyre is mentioned, and we discover that Lemony's sister Kit enjoyed reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When Snicket must go to the lighthouse, it reminds him of a book he's been meaning to read. When he suffers an unfortunate tadpole bite, Snicket says, "It might be little, but it's fierce," which you and I know is a paraphrase of a famous Shakespeare quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
If you enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events and haven't picked up Who Could That Be At This Hour? yet, I encourage you to read the All the Wrong Questions series. The questions may be entirely wrong, but the writing is oh so right.