A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) is set in Stain'd-by-the Sea, the same fading town where "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" and "When Did You See Her Last?," the first two books in his noir-mystery series, All the Wrong Questions, take place. But this collection of 13 mini-mysteries stands on its own, as "13 reports" filed under "Suspicious Incidents" in the archive of Snicket's "secret organization," which was first revealed in the 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events. In that series, he's an adult. Here, he's a 12-year-old apprentice investigator living with a ditsy chaperone in the run-down Lost Arms Hotel. The story line begun in Books 1 and 2 of the series, which Snicket calls "my biggest case" and involves hunting down the fiendish villain Hangfire, will continue in Book 3 of All the Wrong Questions. Note: For the the audiobook version, the mystery stories are read by 13 different people, including MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, NPR's Terry Gross, children's authors Jon Klassen, Jon Scieszka, Holly Black, Libba Bray, illustrator Sophie Blackall, and more.
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old apprentice investigator Lemony Snicket is still in the fading, nearly empty town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea with many of the same characters introduced in Books 1 and 2 of the All the Wrong Questions series. One by one, 13 townsfolk tell him about a "suspicious incident," such as a rare newt gone missing, a kidnapped dog, and a suspected ghost -- and ask him to look into it. In each mini-mystery, facts and clues emerge, and then the story ends. Readers can try to solve the case themselves, then turn to the back of the book, under "Sub-File B: Conclusions," to read the solution, which is usually only one paragraph long. Note: Some solutions in that sub-file have no story to go with them but are amusing to read -- a fun and funny touch. And one of the suspicious incidents involves the Swinster Pharmacy, which also is the subject of Snicket's 2014 picture book 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, illustrated by Lisa Brown (Daniel Handler's wife).
Is it any good?
FILE UNDER: 13 SUSPICIOUS INCIDENTS is a delight. It gives fans of the All The Wrong Questions series another book set in strange Stain'd-by-the Sea -- "a town that was hardly much more than nothing at all" -- to tide them over 'til Book 3. And it gives those who haven't started the series an intriguing introduction to the town's quirky characters and a few facts about Snicket's "biggest case," which he's been working on in Books 1 and 2.
The writing itself is brilliant: light and funny for kids, yet expertly crafted as noir mystery. And a lot of appealing kid characters among the incompetent and sinister adults help make the bizarre setting and stories relatable. The black-and-white illustrations by Seth have the same offbeat, retro look and feel that was established in the All the Wrong Questions series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about mysteries. Why are they so popular with all ages?
How do the mini-mysteries in File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents compare with Snicket's "biggest case," unfolding in the All the Wrong Questions series? Is it fun seeing the characters from those books deal with other mysteries?
Identify a suspicious incident in your house, school, or neighborhood, gather clues, and then try to solve the mystery.
- Author: Lemony Snicket
- Illustrator: Seth
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Great boy role models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: April 1, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 264
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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