"Who Could That Be at This Hour?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 1

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
"Who Could That Be at This Hour?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Snicket in fine form as a 12-year-old solving noir mystery.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events will enjoy learning tidbits about the origins of Lemony Snicket's involvement in the secret organization V.F.D., although it's never referred to as anything but "our organization" in this book. Readers will get a feel for the noir mystery genre and encounter sophisticated vocabulary, such as "bombinating," "laudanum," "aberration," "obsequious," and "imperiously." Some words are explained in context, in the trademark Snicket way, but it could be a good idea to keep a dictionary handy.

Positive Messages

Things aren't always what they seem, beware of people who lie and don't seem trustworthy, "A library is usually a safe place" and can hold the answers to burning questions, be loyal to your associates, and pay attention and try to ask the right questions to get to the bottom of things. When you're in a scary situation, put your fear aside for the moment "like the vegetable on the plate you don't want to touch until all of your rice and chicken are gone" and get scared later, when you're out of danger.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lemony Snicket is a brave, imaginative boy who outsmarts the buffoonish and menacing adults around him, yet he's polite and well behaved -- unless he defies orders to avoid capture by bad guys, for example, or get closer to solving the mystery. Three girl characters are interesting, as well: Moxie Mallahan, a young journalist who's always typing on her typewriter; Ellington Feint, who's clever and will do anything to save her father; and Snicket's unnamed associate, who's involved in a dangerous scheme back in "the city" and tends to ask the right questions.

Violence

A woman is gagged and left in a basement filling up with water but found just in time. Another woman is gagged and tied to a bed in a room ransacked by a bad guy.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A cup of tea is spiked with laudanum, but no one drinks it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is the first book in the four-part All the Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket (the alter ego of author Daniel Handler). Fans of Snicket's 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events will delight in learning more about that series' mysterious adult narrator, who in this fictional memoir is just 12 years old. He proves very capable of solving a complex whodunit even though he's just an apprentice. The novel is noir in style and full of Snicket's trademark wordplay and literary allusions but contains little actual violence: A woman is gagged and left in a basement filling up with water, and another woman is gagged and tied to a bed in a room ransacked by a bad guy.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bycommonsense_jojo September 27, 2014

Awesome Book and Amazing Plot

This is truly a spectacular novel to read and the plot is absolutely fantastic! Lemony Snicket is an amazing character in the book and the fascinating mystery o... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bygilgamesh August 29, 2015

okay

Got kind of boring after the second chapter

What's the story?

Lemony Snicket is just shy of his 13th birthday when he gets in the car of a wild-haired woman who informs him that she'll be his chaperone, and he her apprentice in the shadowy secret organization that readers of Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events will recognize. Together they leave the city and drive to the strange and nearly deserted town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, where they set about solving the mystery of a stolen statue, encounter all sorts of odd characters, find few they can trust, and realize that evil is in the air.

Is it any good?

Fans of the 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events will be happy to devour "WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR," the first book in a four-part Lemony Snicket series called All the Wrong Questions. Unlike in the previous series, the style of this fictional autobiographical account, narrated by Snicket, isn't gothic but noir -- a word that here means "full of lies, corruption, and almost no one the young protagonist -- or the reader -- can trust." And Snicket isn't a world-weary grown-up but a 12-year-old kid.

The atmospheric, stylized blue-black-and-white illustrations by Canadian illustrator Seth help set the mood and add to the fun. And there's plenty of Snicket's trademark worldplay, Dickensian character names, and literary allusions (including to his own Unfortunate Events series), as well. Readers will enjoy finding out what led Snicket to become the man he did.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes this mystery fun. Is it the spooky noir atmosphere? The oddball characters? Lemony Snicket's voice?

  • How does "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"" compare with the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events? Do you like it as much?

  • How is Lemony Snicket different from a typical kid detective?

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