By Dave Rosenthal
6:00 AM EDT, October 22, 2012
I have great respect for Daniel Handler, creator of the wildly popular Lemony Snicket books (and a fellow alum of Wesleyan University), but I couldn't help but feel let down at his newest: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"
When I was finished with the book, which will be released Tuesday, all I could think was: "Why Did I Spend Time Reading This?"
That may be the wrong question, but I couldn't get it out of my head. The book, written for kids on kid-sized pages, didn't take long to read -- just a round-trip flight from Baltimore to Connecticut. And I did enjoy Handler's clever writing, his colorful characters, and his references to children's classics such as "Johnny Tremain" and "The Wind in the Willows." Like J.K. Rowling, Handler has helped create a new generation of readers.
But, ultimately, I felt cheated by WCTBATH, the first of four books in the All the Wrong Questions series.
Young, apprentice Snicket is charged with solving a mystery: the theft of a small, sea-serpentine statue in a quirky, mostly deserted town. Meanwhile, he is preoccupied with a larger mystery that is only mentioned in the sketchiest of terms, and with other characters including faux parents. All of this provides a peek (we hope) at the back-story to Snicket and his later role in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" series.
I didn't mind the mystery within a mystery. But I wanted the statue case, at least, to be tied up at the end. When it wasn't, I felt as though I had read a 272-page teaser for the new series, and that the publisher's marketing department was snickering at me. It was a bit like being served a tasty appetizer, preparing to tuck into a tasty meal, and abruptly getting the check.
Even the first books of The Hunger Games or Twilight series came to a conclusion, though they were plainly meant to seed the ground for upcoming books. Die-hard Snicket fans might not mind the teasing foreplay in WCTBATH, but I certainly did.
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