Asking the right question: Lemony Snicket’s Who could That Be at This Hour?

Lemony Snicket’s latest set of (un)fortunate adventures have moved on from the Gothic pastiche adventures to a take on the detective story. This latest series is to be a quartet rather than the 13 volumes of a series of Unfortunate Events.

In “Who Could That be at This Hour?”, Snicket joins in the story as a junior detective to S. Theodora Markson (perhaps a nod to Law & Order?). When they arrive in the town, Stain’d by the Sea, they are hired to find the missing statue of the Bombinating Beast.

Using the framework of noir and detective fiction, Snicket appears to be having some fun with the idea of a statue that becomes a McGuffin for future volumes. To be fair, I am not entirely au fait with Hammett or Chandler’s works which I suspect would help in this but the author does present a rattling good mystery. The author presents everything that one would expect – dangerous damsels, moral ambiguity, a mcguffin, and high drama. Seth’s artwork brings out the quirkiness of the writing but echoes the writing in its muted colours and strong lines.

Snicket indulges in the word play which littered the last series and is perhaps a little less intrusive as the characters are the equally balanced rather than slightly (and increasingly) forced tone of the Baudelaire children. In one sense this is a detective version of the previous series, but it is good natured and fun. It is great to see children’s books which continue a playfulness with language and form but one does wonder how many times that this formula can be reproduced.

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