The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart
{ 2008 | Little, Brown Young Readers | 512 pgs }

It’s true, I’m doing a few things wrong here. First, I should be reviewing Tallgrass right now, since I read it before The Mysterious Benedict Society. Second, I really should not have read this book all in one sitting…which meant staying up until I-dunno-how-late-since-I-made-sure-not-to-look-at-the-clock. Third, it would probably be better for me to be thinking about lunch instead of debating having another cookie. (Or two. Or three.)

The Mysterious Benedict Society seems, to me, to draw on the success of A Series of Unfortunate Events. (I’m having really severe déja vu here. I know I’ve said this before. Seriously, can you help me out? Did I tell you about this book already?) It’s about rather brilliant orphans who have to solve a mystery, or a series of mysteries. One key difference is that TMBS (do you mind? It’s a pain to type the whole title) isn’t nearly as depressing. It’s actually quite cheery in comparison.

The orphans are Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance, although the narration centers more specifically on Reynie, as he is the leader of the group (and the most empathetic character). The book starts with an extremely difficult written test, given to several large groups of children. Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance are the only four who pass – or are selected by Mr. Benedict – and then complete additional unorthodox testing. Mr. Benedict needs to assemble a team of children to combat the threat of…well, it’s rather mysterious. And hard to explain without giving away too much plot.

What do I have to say about it, then? Well, like I told you, I stayed up half the night (maybe more, maybe less) reading it. The characters are each amusing and poignant in their own way; the writing is unobtrusively excellent; the story is fascinating. There were a few twists and turns, but mainly Stewart has done a great job of letting the reader discover new things when the children do. I never felt like I knew extra pieces of the mystery that the orphans hadn’t yet found. It was a fun journey.

Apparently there is a second book, and a third due for release this year. I’ll definitely be picking those up. (Special thanks to Katie for lending me TMBS, and not harassing me for always forgetting to return it!)

Tweet: In the mood for a humorous, exciting, and dare I say mysterious novel? Pick up The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart!

P.S. I can’t believe I forgot to mention this: the illustrations – the cover, the title headings, and so on – are done by the incredible Carson Ellis, and while you never can judge a book by its cover (so they say), that’s really half the reason I wanted to read it in the first place. They add so much to the book.