The 12th book in 'Series of Unfortunate Events', actually entitled 'The Penultimate Peril', is the strangest one so far. Far from being conventional childrens' novels, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has written very intelligent books, name-dropping authors or novels who make a point he can use to comic effect. Also, the plot is very convoluted, and while this book does answer one or two questions, it poses about a hundred other left unanswered. But in a year, we'll get the final book, and I have every confidnece it will be worth the wait.
This book finds the Baudelaires reaching the Hotel Denouement, and the mysteries that lie therein. The plot whizzes along at a cracking pace, with the reader being just as confused as the siblings at several points. One neat part allows you to choose the order in which you will read the chapters, as each centres on either Violet, Klaus or Sunny. Also, many of the characters from previous books return, as the loose ends from the past begin to come together. As Snicket himself says at one point, a denouement refers to the tying-together of loose ends, but not necessarily the end.
This is the case here - once again, the novel ends on a cliffhanger, but the final book is set up marvelously, with much at stake for our heroes. The full mystery of VFD has yet to be resolved, as does the mystery of Beatrice, the Snickets, and why a fire department would want animals ... Overall, this book works reasonably well on its own, but essentially whets the reader's appetite for what should be an excellent ending.