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The Noir Beginning,
This review is from: Who Could That Be At This Hour? (Kindle Fire Edition) (All The Wrong Questions) (Kindle Edition)
Lemony Snicket, author of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and pseudonym of writer Daniel Handler, looks back upon his strange childhood from the beginning of his teenage years as an apprentice to a terrible detective (here called a "chaperone") named S. Theodora Markson. The two investigate a case of burglary in Stain'd-by-the-sea, a landlocked town, where the stolen item is a carved idol of a bizarre creature worth "upwards of a great deal of money", where literary tips are currency, and everyone is not who they seem...
I've been aware of Lemony Snicket for some time but never read anything by him. I was drawn to this because of Seth, the illustrator on this title, who is one of my all-time favourite writer/artists in comics and whose projects outside his own books are always interesting (I heartily recommend Aimee Mann's record "Lost in Space" whose jacket was designed by Seth and was my entry into his comics - the music is incredible too). Seth is the perfect choice for this wonderful, twilit tale of mystery as his drawings of old-timey towns and people, night time jaunts and urban decay are both cartoony but convey a strong sense of melancholy and quiet beauty.
The tone of the story is light-hearted and set against a strange, noir-ish background that is like our world but has more in common with something written by Dr Seuss. The feeling of reading this is like reading "Alice in Wonderland" where everything is a warped version of reality and feels exciting and confusing yet is so much fun to read. S. Theodora Markson gives a different explanation each time someone asks her what the "S" stands for in her name. Two children drive the only taxi in the town. Snicket is a 13 year old apprentice detective. Everyone carries special masks because of a dangerous amount of salt in the air, despite the town being far from the sea. Ink is regularly mined from the ground as its more valuable than oil. The book reads like an Agatha Christie novel but with more comedy and quirky characters thrown in.
The book is unquestionably brilliant and despite my age - late twenties - I can definitely say kids from 8 years onwards would have no trouble reading this by themselves. Any "big words" that crop up are explained by Snicket to ensure no confusion in the narrative and the fast-paced story and charming and memorable characters bantering witty dialogue back and forth will easily keep anyone entertained. I read this through in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it for it's original flavour and different approach to storytelling that will appeal to both kids and adults alike. You can't miss with "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" - I'll definitely be back for Book 2.