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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "All the Wrong Questions" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Lemony Snicket is a boy of uncertain age who belongs to an unnamed secret spy organization. He and his incompetent chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, have been sent to investigate unmentioned events in a dying town called Stain'd-by-the-Sea. They stay in a small room at the Lost Arms hotel. In this book, Snicket helps various colorful townspeople solve 13 mini-mysteries. Readers can try to unravel the cases for themselves before checking out the answers in the back.

Mystery No. 1, "Inside Job": Snicket helps a young miner named Marguerite protect her family's gold from the polka-loving nanny, Dagmar.

Mystery No. 2, "Pinched Creature": Snicket and his reporter friend, Moxie Mallahan, help a young veterinarian recover his missing amaranthine newt.

Mystery No. 3,"Ransom Note": Snicket and the taxi-driving Bellerophon brothers, Pip and Squeak, help a mechanic named Jackie locate his stolen dog.

Mystery No. 4, "Walkie-Talkie": Snicket helps diner owner Jake Hix solve the mystery of a cry for help coming from a mislaid walkie-talkie.

Mystery No. 5, "Bad Gang": Snicket helps married police officers Harvey and Mimi Mitchum catch vandals who call themselves the Big Bad Brick Gang.

Mystery No. 6, "Silver Spoon": Snicket helps a drifter named Randall retrieve his prized silver spoon from the wealthy Smogface Wiley.

Mystery No. 7, "Violent Butcher": Mack the butcher threatens Snicket into helping him search the Black Cat Coffee building for his missing son, Drumstick.

Mystery No. 8, "Twelve or Thirteen": Snicket and Moxie solve the mystery of a painting stolen years earlier during a sled race.

Mystery No. 9, "Midnight Demon": Snicket assists rocking-chair shop owner Thomasina Cozy when she believes a demon is posing as her daughter to thwart the girl's arranged marriage.

Mystery No. 10, "Three Suspects": Snicket helps the Mitchum officers catch the culprit in a rash of blueberry pie thefts.

Mystery No. 11, "Vanished Message": Fearing she has lost an important postcard on a recent trip to Stain'd-by-the-Sea, Lois Dressing contacts Snicket and implores him to search the Swinster Pharmacy for her.

Mystery No. 12, "Troublesome Ghost": When Old Lady Mann starts seeing her husband's ghost at her mansion, Snicket helps her son discover a logical explanation.

Mystery No. 13, "Figure in Fog": Snicket ponders his many cases in Stain'd-by-the-Sea as he follows a stranger through the fog.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Mrs. Cozy thinks a demon is taking her daughter's form in an effort to thwart the marriage Mrs. Cozy has arranged for her. (This mention is more humorous than creepy. Mrs. Cozy mentions that the only thing she and her husband had in common was their love for scary movies and fish. She contends that the only "reasonable" explanation the husband-to-be is seeing her daughter wandering outside late at night is that a demon is involved.)

Authority Roles

The bumbling S. Theodora Markson erroneously considers herself a mentor to young Snicket. Her random statements, which she considers wise and thought provoking, usually make no sense. She leaves Snicket alone in the hotel for several days while she goes to visit her sister. The town police officers, a husband and wife, argue with each other too much to do their jobs effectively. Lemony's parents are not mentioned in the book.

Mack the butcher punishes his son by yelling at him for an hour and chasing him around so he can hit him with a rolled-up magazine. In this book, the kids are the smart ones, handling everything on their own, and most of the adults are either silly or clueless.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 and up


Lemony Snicket






Record Label



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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