My Current Obsession: Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions

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Back in January, I went through a “A Series of Unfortunate Events” phase by watching the Netflix show and reading all 13 books. Since the show is now renewed and will fully adapt the series by the end of Season 3, I’ve been in the mood for more Lemony Snicket. I have yet to read the “Unauthorized Biography” or “The Beatrice Letters,” but I’ve recently managed to get my hands on the prequel series called “All The Wrong Questions.”

For those who don’t know, Daniel Handler wrote this series just a few years ago. It depicts adventures of the shadowy narrator Lemony Snicket, who’s only 12 years old during this time. Alongside his bumbling older associate, S. Theodora Markson, Snicket solves various small town mysteries that may have a connection between them. The titles of each book revolve around four questions Snicket asks during these mysteries that are ultimately the wrong things to focus on.

I’ll mention here that I’ve only read two of the four stories so far, and my plan is to read the supplemental “File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents” next before I continue. However, I’m already really enjoying this series so far. I’ve always loved mysteries, so the noir feel to these books appealed to me immediately. I also appreciated that Handler’s familiar writing style shown in ASOUE was brought back here, albeit slightly more polished. He made a simple difference between both versions of Snicket in that the younger one is a bit of a smart aleck like some pre-teens can be. And even for such a young boy, he’s competent at what he does.

Another thing I’ve liked is that the stories involve a sort of hub location: the desolate town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. The descriptive narrative makes it easy to picture, but I also like that Handler keeps focus on the town rather than having Snicket jump to a bunch of other locations like the Baudelaires did. I think it’s a testament to Handler’s writing that I haven’t felt remotely bored by this setting. In relation to that, the cast of characters is smaller and easy to get invested in. S. Theodora and the Mitchums (the local police and married couple) are a prime example of the “adults are mostly useless” trope seen in ASOUE. Thankfully, even though they usually aren’t much help, the books occasionally have adults that are. For example, a pair of twins in the second book are actually cooperative with Snicket’s investigation. It’s kinda sad that that’s even a positive in this universe, but it still highlights how most of the kids, such as Snicket’s journalist friend Moxie, are the ones with the smarts to get things done. One of the only other competent adults seems to be the mysterious and villainous Hangfire, so I can’t wait to see the inevitable final showdown between him and Snicket.

Despite this series being only about a quarter of the length of ASOUE, I think “All The Wrong Questions” is a solid bunch of stories so far. It does reference lines and characters from ASOUE, but since it’s a prequel series that didn’t bother me whatsoever. I think I would even recommend newcomers to try reading this first before ASOUE if continuity is a big deal to you. Of course, as I’ve found out, reading them in the reverse order isn’t bad either. No matter which series you choose to read first, ATWQ is definitely a good addition to the Snicket line-up.

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